Pinellas leads state in removing guns from potentially dangerous individuals

According to new numbers released Friday by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, the county is leading the state in the number of risk protection orders issued.

The law allows law enforcement to ask a court to take away someone's gun rights for one year if they're determined to be a threat to themselves or others.

Sgt. Jason Schmittendorf believes tragedies have been prevented due to these pre-emptive measures. More than 400 guns have been removed from Pinellas County streets as a result of the orders.

"This law gives law enforcement the ability," Schmittendorf said. "To try and predict, try and pick out, try and locate the next person who may be the suspect of a similar situation."

This week marks one year since the Parkland shooting and nearly one year since former Governor Rick Scott signed into law the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.

"It's important," Sgt. Jason Schmittendorf said. "Because it's a proactive approach as opposed to reactive."

Schmittendorf heads up the Risk Protection Unit at the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, which is the first unit of it's kind in the state.

Since April 2018, they've issued 220 risk protection orders, removing a total of 412 guns and more than 90,000 rounds of ammunition from the hands of people deemed to be a threat.

According to the AP, more than 70 percent of Florida's 67 counties issued less than 10 orders.

"Population is part of it," Schmittendorf said. "But part of it, we've taken the time as an agency to train all the agencies in the county."

Once an order is issued by the court Schmittendorf's team of 5, it is then served to the individual who's asked to surrender their guns.

"I'd like to hope that off all the orders," Schmittendorf said. "All the firearms. All the ammunition that we've at least prevented one tragedy if not more."

The orders issued usually stem from actual crimes, direct threats of violence or a social media post and in some cases, the sheriff's office will work with the individual or their family to help them any mental health treatment they made need.

After one year when the order expires, the team will re-evaluate the individual and then decide whether to ask the court to extend the order or restore their gun rights.