Three Co Antrim men have been sentenced over attempts to buy guns online – which police believe were for use by the South East Antrim UDA.
All three were handed their sentences at Laganside Crown Court in Belfast on Monday.
Detective Inspector Lynne Knox from the Paramilitary Crime Task Force said: “We believe these weapons would have ended up under the control of paramilitaries who seek to rule communities with fear.
“In this case, we believe these weapons may have been destined for use by the South East Antrim UDA.”
Darren Bennett, 23 and from Carrickfergus, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess firearms and ammunition with intent.
He was sentenced to four years in prison – 20 months in custody and 28 months on licence.
Bennett also pleaded guilty to attempting to possess Class A drugs with intent to supply.
He was sentenced to a further 30 months - 15 in custody and 15 on licence - to run concurrently.
Thomas Morgan, 42 and from Carrickfergus, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess firearms with intent and was sentenced to four years in prison - 20 months in custody and 28 on licence.
Scott McMurran, 26 and from Belfast, pleaded guilty to encouraging and assisting the offence of attempting to possess class A drugs with intent to supply.
He was sentenced to 100 hours of community service over 12 months and 18 months of probation.
DI Knox added: “These men were attempting to bring lethal weapons and drugs onto our streets.
“Guns are used for one purpose only and that is to kill and maim. There is no reason to justify why anyone would want to bring guns into our communities which pose a threat to everyone.
“When a gun is fired there is no guarantee where the bullet could end up or who it could harm.
“I am confident that the streets are safer now that we have prevented these men getting hold of weapons and ammunition.”