By Tamas Mondovics

“The recent shootings in our country have turned the topic of guns into a national conversation, but here at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, we have never stopped focusing on one thing when it comes to this issue: taking guns out of the hands of violent felons,” said Sheriff David Gee as he announced the results of a major undercover investigation that drew detectives within yards of Gibsonton Elementary School.

“Operation Cease Fire” began in July 2012, thanks to a confidential tip about drugs, which led investigators and detectives of HCSO’s Special Investigations Division to a consignment store located at 7724 Gibsonton Dr., which was once a flower shop, and ended in a wave of arrests of convicted felons who sold guns and drugs across the street from the school.

During the course of the investigation, undercover detectives made drug and gun transactions with the suspects inside this consignment shop.

Gee emphasized that the undercover drug and gun transactions in this case took place less than 175 ft. away from the elementary school, and most of the transactions took place after school hours.

At the end, “Operation Cease Fire” resulted in the arrests of 10 convicted felons who sold 34 firearms and 49 silencers to undercover detectives, who are still on the hunt for three at-large suspects.

The guns removed from the streets include an AR-15, AK-47 style rifle, .22 caliber rifle with silencer, sawed-off shotguns, and sniper-type rifles with night vision. Detectives also purchased trafficking amounts of narcotic prescription drugs, crack cocaine, and methamphetamine.

According to State Attorney, Mark Ober, the fact that detectives busted a criminal enterprise next to an elementary school will also translate to enhanced charges for some of the suspects involved.

Last year alone, detectives bought 52 guns in undercover operations and of that, 41 of the 52 firearms were sold by 17 convicted felons. HCSO also arrested 118 felons in possession of a firearm, and 80 people for unlawfully carrying concealed firearms, while deputies impounded more than 1500 guns as evidence.

Gee pointed out that illegal guns in the hands of convicted felons also continues to be a life or death issue for law enforcement.

“We continually witness the same tragic tale of police officers killed in the line of duty by felons in possession of a firearm,” Gee said.

Over the last three years in Florida, the statistics show nearly 85 percent of the cop killers were armed convicted felons. In 2012, and in 2010, all of the guns used to kill law enforcement officers came from convicted felons.

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to take these dangerous guns off the streets, arrest armed felons, and break up these criminal enterprises, particularly when they are operating across the street from places like an elementary school in Hillsborough County,” Gee said.

The Sheriff’s Office also plans to host a gun buyback program in five locations next month.

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