Putnam: Criminal Background Checks Conducted on Every Concealed Weapon Application

A screengrab from Adam Putnam's appearance on Fox News | YouTube

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam promises his office will never again fail to do follow-up on certain national background checks that could disqualify people from gaining permits to carry concealed weapons.

According to a February 2016 investigative report from Florida's Inspector General, first reported by the Tampa Bay Times, a state Division of Licensing employee identified as Lisa Wilde was unable to log into the system to actually complete these background checks.

When determining eligibility for purchasing a firearm, applicants must undergo a background check known as the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is administered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The Times reports that the problem was traced back to a single employee who was tasked with logging in to the NICS background check system. The Department of Agriculture said she failed to do that review.

Meanwhile, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, another Democrat in the governor's race, labeled the report a sign of "dangerous incompetence" by Putnam.

A report from the Florida Inspector General shows an employee in Putnam's office did not pull in the background checks that were run by FDLE between roughly February 2016 and March 2017.

That bloodbath spurred a historic spike in applications for carry permits, according to the Tampa Bay Times, which obtained a copy of the June 2017 inspector general's report through an open-records request.

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In a statement, Putnam said the "former employee was both deceitful and negligent, and we immediately launched an investigation and implemented safeguards to ensure this never happens again". 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. He celebrated the state's millionth concealed weapon permit in 2012 and bragged that the length of the process went down from 35 days to a mere 12 days during his tenure.

When the department completed the full background checks with information from the NICS system on the 365 applications she failed to review, 291 licenses were ultimately revoked.

A Putnam spokesman said Friday that the employee responsible for the problem had been fired. Records suggest that hundreds of thousands of people applied for permits in this time.

In a Friday interview with the Times, Wilde said the licensing department was overwhelmed with the number of applications and she was under pressure from supervisors to quickly approve applications. There are now 1.8 million concealed weapon permit holders in Florida. It wasn't until March of the next year another employee noticed a problem.

Watch: Adam Putnam answers reporters' questions about the investigation and reports.

The employee is quoted in the report as saying that she "dropped the ball". "I should have been doing it and I didn't", she said. These revocations could be due to mitigating factors such as drug usage, mental illness, and more non-criminal disqualifications for a concealed carry.

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.

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