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Operation nets more than 30 people on drug, gun charges

By Teresa Carson

PORTLAND, Ore (Reuters) - A Pacific Northwest undercover operation arrested more than 30 people on weapons and drug charges and nabbed 77 guns, officials said on Thursday.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives led the eight-month investigation, which involved the use of a fake store front in Portland, Oregon.

Authorities gave few details of the storefront, but said that among the weapons recovered were a sawed off shotgun sold to agents by a drug dealer, and a machine gun.

"I have met too many mothers who have lost children to gun violence," said Dwight Holton, U.S. Attorney for Oregon. "This is a down payment on putting an end to that violence."

The police effort called Operation Kracken targeted convicted violent criminals, drug dealers and gang members.

Aside from the 77 guns, the crackdown also resulted in seizure of drugs such as methamphetamine and cocaine.

Kelvin Crenshaw, special agent in charge of the Seattle office of the ATF, dismissed notions that agents had entrapped those who were indicted.

"You bring the guns to us and we buy them? It is time to put on our big boy pants and take responsibility for what you've done," Crenshaw said.

As part of the operation, 47 individuals in Oregon and Washington were indicted, authorities said. About a dozen of those individuals are still at large, while the rest have been arrested.

People caught in the operation face federal and state charges of illegal possession of a firearm by a felon, and other weapons and drug charges.

Officers from a Portland gang task force and other police departments in the Pacific Northwest took part in the effort.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Greg McCune)