TAMPA (FOX 13) - Hillsborough County Sheriff's Deputies have arrested 51 suspects as part of a three-month undercover investigation targeting illegal guns.
They say they've recovered 66 firearms, including 42 handguns, 15 rifles and 9 shotguns.
"An operation like this could have taken us a lot of months," said Sheriff David Gee. "But it only took us 12 weeks."
The suspects allegedly thought they were selling guns to convicted felons who couldn't buy them legally. Instead, they were selling to undercover deputies.
"On numerous occasions throughout the three months, we wouldn't even contact the suspects anymore. They would be contacting us; days off, weekends, at night, when they came across guns on the street," said Maj. Frank Losat.
The sheriff kicked off the operation after an 11 percent increase in aggravated assaults last year.
"You can expect that if you do not get on this problem, your murders, robberies and all these things will trend in that direction," Sheriff Gee said.
Half of the seized guns are at the lab, as deputies determine if they were ever used in unsolved crimes. They suspect most started out as perfectly legal ones, taken from unlocked cars or homes.
"We are back out there right now," said Sheriff Gee. "We will be back out there tonight, trying to get some more."
The state US attorneys helped determine the charges for each case.