Law enforcement officials in Montgomery County announced Wednesday that they had dismantled a gun-trafficking ring that spread more than 30 handguns throughout the region, some of them used in violent crimes in Philadelphia.

District Attorney Kevin Steele said the 14-member group used social media and text messages to arrange gun sales, openly displaying photos of the weapons and haggling over prices. They acted quickly, buying the guns and turning them over for sale in a matter of days, he said.

In one instance, they distributed eight illegal handguns in nine days, according to Steele.

Some members of the group, charged late Tuesday, acted as straw purchasers, buying guns for others in the ring who were unable to legally obtain or possess weapons because of criminal convictions, according to the affidavit of probable cause for their arrests.

And in one instance, a suspect was caught selling “ghost guns,” firearms without traceable serial numbers that are built using kits purchased online.

“This is a huge, growing problem we’re facing in Southeastern Pennsylvania,” Steele said. “And it’s a problem simply because it puts guns in the hands of people who shouldn’t be holding them.”

» READ MORE: Philly-area teens ran a trafficking network that put dozens of illegally bought guns on the streets, authorities say

Charged as straw purchasers were Quinn Whisted, 22, of Plymouth Meeting; Maliqa Jack, 25, of Pottstown; Makayla Prince, 22, of Reading; and Deborah Chappell, 61, of Pottstown.

They allegedly bought guns on behalf of the groups’ other members: Alexander Smith, 20, and Kristen Owens, 24, of Plymouth Meeting; Daveese Smith, 22, and Tony Pearson, 40, of Norristown; Taye Wynder, 20, Daeshaun Wynder, 22, and Jerome Wynder, 24, of Pottstown; Tymir Allen, 22, of Philadelphia; Joseph Zummo, 26, of Bridgeport; and Talani Ewell, 20, of New Castle, Del.

All face charges of operating a corrupt organization, as well as counts of illegally transferring firearms and related offenses, court records show. They all remain in custody, except for Prince and Chappell, who were released on unsecured bail.

Only the Wynder brothers, who were caught with handguns during a car stop near their home, had hired an attorney, according to court records. Michael Quinn, who represents all three men, said Wednesday that Steele’s office had not established evidence that they were connected to the larger gun-trafficking ring.

Steele said detectives from his office discovered the ring’s activity in the fall, as they probed recent gun purchases during another trafficking investigation. In that case, Daniel Lucas, of West Philadelphia, was arrested in November after traveling 1,700 miles across Pennsylvania counties to purchase 36 guns he later sold. His criminal trial is pending.

» READ MORE: West Philly man traveled to 8 counties, buying 36 guns he illegally sold to others, DA says

The group charged this week operated in much the same way, Steele said. The four accused of purchasing the firearms made multiple trips to gun stores in Bucks, Montgomery, Berks, Lancaster, and Philadelphia Counties, each time buying multiple handguns.

Seven of the guns were later recovered by police during criminal investigations, including a violent home-invasion robbery in Philadelphia, and multiple car stops for unrelated issues, Steele said.

Those seeking the guns were persistent, according to the affidavit. Daveese Smith allegedly made multiple trips with different straw purchasers to pick out guns he wanted, until he was caught with one of them in Philadelphia in late October.

Two days after being released on bail in that case, Smith was trying to purchase another gun, the affidavit said, and on Nov. 7 had Allen direct Prince to buy two more firearms for him.

“When two individuals go into a gun store and one starts picking out guns while the other fills out paperwork, that’s a red flag,” Steele said. “People need to recognize these signs.”