Risk protection order allows sheriff to take assault rifles from man who made threats

Hernando County deputies arrested a Weeki Wachee man accused of - among other things - violating a risk protection order, a new tool law enforcement has to prevent someone from owning guns for a year if that person is found to pose a threat to themselves or others.

Larry Morelli, Jr., 24, was placed under the RPO in February after being charged with making threats to commit a mass shooting.

The RPO says Morelli is not to be in possession of a firearm until he is cleared by the courts. However, Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis said investigators started hearing rumors.

“Within the last several weeks we started getting information from anonymous sources that he may actually be selling guns,” said Nienhuis.

Deputies executed search warrant allegedly found Morelli with a pair of assault rifles and a pair of shotguns, plus ammunition. They also allegedly found marijuana, opioids, and vials of steroids. 

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“We can’t say for sure what we prevented, but it’s very likely in this case we prevented him from doing harm in the future,” the sheriff said.

The sheriff noted RPOs, while important, are only pieces of paper. Deputies rely on tips to enforce them. In other words, see something - say something.

“It is like taking someone’s driver’s license away it doesn’t prevent them from driving, it just gives us a mechanism to hold them accountable,” he said.