After Florida officials had trouble logging into the Federal Bureau of Investigation crime database to determine whether or not to approve concealed weapons permit applications, tens of thousands of applicants were approved to carry firearms without ever receiving a required background check, Tampa Bay Times reported Friday.
An inspector general's report says the state Division of Licensing failed to consult the National Instant Background Check System between between February 26, 2016, and late March 2017, when an official noticed the agency hadn't heard recently from anyone whose application for a carry permit was denied. The worker overseeing background checks, Lisa Wilde, couldn't log into the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System-a problem that persisted until another employee noticed it in March 2017.
The news, which has sent shockwaves across Twitter, is now being leveraged by Democrats and anti-gun advocates against Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who is 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.
During that time, which coincided with the June 12, 2016 shooting at Pulse nightclub that left 50 dead, the state saw an unprecedented spike in applications for concealed weapons permits. And when the Office of Inspector General provided the results of its investigation to the Department, his office immediately backtracked and reviewed the 365 applications. When the actions of what Putnam called the "negligent and deceptive employee" were discovered, the previously-run background checks for all 350,000 applicants were pulled and reviewed.
"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. There are now 1.8 million concealed weapon permit holders in Florida.
A Putnam spokesman said Friday that the employee responsible for the problem had been fired.
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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.
The report, which was forwarded to Putnam, recommends that the department "identify any NICS ineligible applicants that may have been erroneously issued".
The NICS flags people who shouldn't have access to firearms for reasons including criminal convictions, drug use, mental illness and domestic violence.
Putnam blamed the lapse on a negligent and "deceitful" employee.
A subordinate, Robin James, who "acted as Wilde's back-up", had similar problems, but Wilde "never asked James to check the NICS after the login issue", the report says Wilde told investigators under oath. "I should have been doing it and I didn't", she said.
In the recent legislative session, Putnam proposed legislation that would require permits to be approved in cases when an application is in limbo because background checks are inconclusive.