RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCT) — Federal authorities seized 280 firearms and charged nearly 280 defendants with weapons offenses in the Eastern District of North Carolina in 2022, according to U.S. Attorney Michael Easley.

The Eastern District includes 44 counties from Raleigh to the Atlantic coast and includes Scotland and Robeson Counties in the News13 viewing area.

“Getting illegal guns out of the hands of the most dangerous felons helps make our communities safer,” Easley said in a news release. “I am proud of the strong partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement to get these guns off the street, so they are not used to commit future crimes.”

The forfeited guns were “illegally owned, possessed, used, or obtained,” according to the release. The seized weapons are given to the government for disposal, which can include returning the gun to a rightful owner.

The district’s news release said 278 defendants were charged with federal firearms offenses, including possessing a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking; possession of a firearm as a convicted felon; and straw purchasing of a firearm.

“ATF’s top priority is preventing firearms from falling into the wrong hands,” said Special Agent in Charge Bennie Mims of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “That effort is strongly supported by our local and state law enforcement partners and our federal prosecutors. Through our collaborative efforts, we’re working hard to prevent illegal purchases, firearms trafficking, and firearms thefts. Keeping firearms out of the hands of prohibited individuals is key to building and maintaining safer communities.”