Volusia County Sheriff's Office leads area agencies in taking people's guns

Video: Law enforcement in Florida can petition to seize guns if they can prove someone is a danger

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — In Florida, law enforcement officials can petition to seize your guns if they prove you're a danger to yourself or others.

One agency in Central Florida is using this tool exponentially more than others.

Channel 9's Megan Cruz crunched the numbers and looks into how the Volusia County Sheriff's Office is using the new state law to stop potential violence.

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The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office has filed more than 150 petitions asking judges to take away people’s guns.

That number is more than all the other local sheriff’s offices combined as of Sept. 30:

  • Volusia County Sheriff's Office: 155
  • Marion County Sheriff's Office: 30
  • Brevard County Sheriff's Office: 24
  • Seminole County Sheriff's Office: 22
  • Orange County Sheriff's Office: 12
  • Osceola County Sheriff's Office: 3
  • Lake County Sheriff's Office: 0

In Florida, police can seize your guns if they can prove you’re a danger to yourself or others. This law went into effect after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Most risk protection petitions are approved.

“You're seizing semiautomatic rifles, shotguns... thousands and thousands of rounds of ammunition,” said Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood. “We really jumped on this as far as the training was because we saw there are an awful lot of people that are in mental crisis.”

Before risk protection orders, Chitwood says his deputies could only Baker Act - or involuntarily hold an individual for a mental health evaluation - for up to 72 hours, and remove just the gun used in the current call.

Now, risk protection orders remove all guns and ammo from a person for up to a year, and they also forbid that person from buying more weapons. That’s a relief for Chitwood, especially after he reads some of his deputies' petitions.

“You read the scenario and see the access that they have to the weaponry and the ammunition - you scratch your head and say oh my God,” he said.

According to court records, most petitions by VCSO address people threatening suicides. Studies done in other states with red flag laws say the risk protection orders have dramatically reduced the number of suicides in their communities.

But in August, VCSO also petitioned to take guns from a man who threatened to shoot Jewish people. Later that month, a man threatened a mass shooting if his girlfriend kept ignoring his text messages.

“We're really tracking the number of people in mental crisis that own firearms,” he said. “That's the shocking thing.”

Right now, 16 other states and the District of Columbia have red flag laws.