Thursday, 19 July, 2018

Florida revoked 291 gun permits after lapse

A screengrab from Adam Putnam's appearance on Fox News | YouTube A screengrab from Adam Putnam's appearance on Fox News | YouTube
Melinda Barton | 10 June, 2018, 15:30

The State of Florida issued concealed weapons permits without performing background checks for over a year because no one was able to log into a national database meant to track people with disqualifying histories, according to Florida's own Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

An Office of Inspector General report from June 2017 -- obtained by the Times in a public records request -- said that between February 2016 and March 2017, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services didn't access an Federal Bureau of Investigation crime database called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System because an employee was unable to log into the system. The one employee was supposed to review the applications didn't pass the applicants through one of them, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

The state revoked 291 permits and fired the employee.

Despite being unable to run the background checks, permits were still approved in the same time frame, investigators found.

In a statement Friday night, Putnam, who is running for governor, said "a criminal background investigation was completed on every single application".

The state of Florida gave out concealed weapons licenses to almost 300 people who never should've gotten them. An investigative report from the Office of Inspector General found that the employee in charge of using the NICS system stopped using it because she couldn't log in, the Times reports.

While the Office of Inspector General's investigation was ongoing, the department adopted safeguards into the application review process to ensure this never happens again.

The June 5, 2017 report, obtained by the Tampa Bay Times in a records request, concluded that the employee in charge of background checks, Lisa Wilde, was negligent. The Division of Licensing is housed under the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service.

Of those, Putnam's office conducted a further review on 365 applicants and then revoked 291 of their concealed carry permits.

Putnam blamed the employee, who he called "negligent and deceptive" for not acting on the results of the background check.

During that time, 349,923 people applied for concealed weapons permits, Putnam said. There are now 1.8 million concealed weapon permit holders in Florida. Early in Putnam's term, it was discovered that his employees had trouble accessing the database because they were not law enforcement officers.

Background checks on permits were still carried out through two other databases, the Florida Crime Information Center database and the National Crime Information Center database.

The employee is quoted in the report as saying that she "dropped the ball".

An inspector general's report sent to Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in 2017 highlighted the problem.

Meanwhile, in Pensacola, Putnam's Republican primary opponent, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, held a rare campaign event where he for the first time responded to the inspector general report, calling it "very concerning".

"I am extremely alarmed at the failure by Commissioner Putnam to disclose that his agency had failed to conduct these critical background checks - allowing possibly mentally disturbed individuals and others who should be disqualified, to be legally armed in Florida", Stewart said.