Florida improperly licensed almost 300 concealed weapons permits after an employee working at Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam's office failed to review background checks and follow up with applicants deemed potentially ineligible.
Although Putnam called an earlier Tampa Bay Times report on the matter "flat wrong and misleading," the Republican candidate for governor did acknowledge that 291 people had their permits revoked because of the "negligent" employee.
Putnam clarified on Saturday that three different background checks were done on all 349,923 concealed weapon license application submitted from February 2016 to March 2017 – including the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NCIS). The FBI crime database lists people who may be disqualified from receiving firearms in other states, which may include convicts, drug users and people who've been involuntarily committed.
NCIS flagged 365 concealed weapons permit applications as potentially ineligible. But the employee who was supposed to review these flagged applications couldn't log into the system. An investigation by the Office of Inspector General found that the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services didn't access the NCIS system for more than a year – from February 2016 to March 2017. The employee was eventually fired.
"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 to the News Service of Florida. "The former employee was both deceitful and negligent, and we immediately launched an investigation and implemented safeguards to ensure this never happens again."
The Agriculture Department also points out that a concealed weapon license doesn't authorize the purchase of a gun.
"Anyone seeking to purchase a gun must undergo a background check performed by FDLE at the time of purchase," the department's website says.
Putnam, who has called himself a "proud NRA sellout" in the past, has listed his expansion of concealed carry permits in Florida as an accomplishment during his run for governor.
The headlines and stories that say that there were no background checks for a year are flat wrong, misleading and must be corrected. Today I set the record straight: https://t.co/qxbISog7zE