VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Following the Buffalo shooting this past weekend, Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood spoke out in support of ‘red flag’ laws in Florida, stating that they’ve helped him in preventing crimes during his time in law enforcement.
‘Red flag’ laws allow law enforcement agencies to petition a judge to sign off on warrants allowing agencies to seize someone’s firearms if law enforcement considers that person a significant risk to themselves or others.
Several states adopted these kinds of laws after Florida — led by a Republican-controlled House and Senate, as well as then-Governor Rick Scott — passed legislation enacting these policies.
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Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood credits the policy for saving dozens of lives in his jurisdiction during the past five years.
“Law enforcement can’t kick the door in. They can’t seize your weapons — all of the things that people try to distort the law,” Chitwood said.
Chitwood said VCSO has sought a court order to seize someone’s firearms under this law more than 60 times.
Following an incident last February, Chitwood said his office sought a court order to seize firearms from Jonathan Hernandez, 27.
Law enforcement said the victim requested deputies safely escort her inside her residence after Hernandez threatened to show up to her home and shoot her.
Once deputies announced their presence inside the home, a sheriff’s office drone flying overheard spotted Hernandez jumping out of a window in the backyard.
“We don’t know what we are averting through these things — that you may have a mass shooter or a family that gets annihilated — we don’t know that,” Chitwood said. “But at least it’s a tool to temporarily get a firearm out of somebody’s hands who’s behaving irrationally,”
Chitwood said his support for the law goes back to his days as a Daytona Beach police chief.
While serving in that role, despite several warning signs, he found himself legally unable to take firearms away from a decorated U.S. army veteran who had served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, following threats of violence.
“I thought to myself, ‘If there is a way I could have seized his weapons six months prior and forced him into some sort of psychological and mental physiatrist hospital, they might not be dead,’” Chitwood said.
Chitwood has also reunited with a man he helped negotiate with for several hours during an armed stand-off in August 2020. The man credits Chitwood for saving his life.
The Florida “red flag” legislation took effect in 2018 in response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County.