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.
The system is run by GOP Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who is now running for governor. All five Democratic gubernatorial candidates - Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Palm Beach developer Jeff Greene, Orlando-area businessman Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine - said Putnam should consider dropping out of the governor's race.
The final report issued in June 2017 states that an employee in the Division of Licensing did not run applications through the national system because she couldn't log into the database.
According to the investigation, in February 2016, the employee couldn't log in to the database.
Putnam said there were about 350,000 applicants during that time, all of which were initially approved for concealed carry permits.
The Department, meanwhile, said that it "immediately" fired the employee after becoming aware of her non-compliance with the procedure, and it "thoroughly reviewed every application potentially impacted". The background-check bungle coincided with the Pulse nightclub shooting, which took 50 lives, and a historic uptick in Florida concealed-weapons applications.
"To be clear, a criminal background investigation was completed on every single application".
This coming a year after the Department of Agriculture's Inspector General finished their investigation in June 2017. "I also want to know why, if this report was done a year ago, why are we just now finding out about this?"
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It said that the Federal Bureau of Investigation database was mainly used to check for "non-criminal disqualifying offenses", and that the criminal background checks, while available through the Federal Bureau of Investigation system, were conducted via other databases that continued to be available to the employees.
Asked why he did not inform the public when he learned about this a year ago, Putnam reiterated he acted quickly to revoke licenses and change the department's practices so it wouldn't happen again.
"Upon discovery of this former employee's negligence in not conducting the further review required on 365 applications, we immediately completed full background checks on those 365 applications, which resulted in 291 revocations", Putnam said in the statement.
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. During his time as commissioner, Putnam has frequently touted his pro-Second Amendment bona fides, specifically his office's efforts to streamline the process of applying for concealed weapons permits.
The department called her a former employee, but would not confirm whether she was sacked. But in March 2017 an investigation was triggered after a state employee noted that the state was not getting any correspondence from people whose applications had been rejected because of information gleaned from the national database.
The report, which was forwarded to Putnam, recommends that the department "identify any NICS ineligible applicants that may have been erroneously issued". "I should have been doing it and I didn't".
The state used the national system to see if there were reasons such as mental illness or drug addictions that should prevent someone from being issued a concealed-weapons permit.