Feds nab 82 illegal guns after months of investigating drug traffickers

U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder speaks at a press conference with officials from other law enforcement agencies about “Operation Cold Snap,” which led to 10 federal indictments, Feb. 26, 2020. (Photo by Zachariah Hughes/Alaska Public Media)

Federal officials in Alaska say a months-long investigation led to charges against 16 individuals, and the confiscation of dozens of firearms.

At a press conference in Anchorage Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder stood in front of a conference table covered in handguns, hunting rifles, shotguns and assault rifles.

“To our memory, this is the largest seizure of firearms we’ve made in a federal operation here in Alaska,” he said.

Schroeder was flanked by representatives from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The investigations, led by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Alaska field office, was monitoring “mid-level” gun and drug traffickers in Anchorage and the surrounding areas. A series of searches turned up illegal weapons and significant amounts of methamphetamine and heroin, and led to 10 federal indictments.

Dozens of firearms seized as part of the ATF-led “Operation Cold Snap” in Anchorage. (Photo by Zachariah Hughes/Alaska Public Media)

But officials were keen to highlight the 82 guns confiscated in the operation. Though almost all of them were models that are legal for purchase, many were seized because they were found in possession of felons or were carried during the course of other alleged crimes, like drug trafficking.

Schroder said the effort is evidence of the strong link between illegal drug sales and guns.

“The firearms you see here today, recovered during the operation, were removed from the hands of criminals, making our neighborhoods safer. Why are we displaying them? Because we are committed to driving down violent crime. And these are a visual reminder of what our law enforcement partners do every day to keep us safe,” he said.

Thirteen individuals charged with crimes have been arrested, while three remain at large.

About a third of the guns recovered were stolen from Alaska residents. Officials will try to return as many as they can to their owners. The remainder of the weapons will be sent to a federal facility in West Virginia and destroyed.