Putnam responds to criticism over gun background checks

Marsha Scott
June 11, 2018

It began in February 2016, when the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services ceased accessing the National Instant Criminal Background Check system - meaning that people who were ineligible for such a permit may have been erroneously approved. 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. The employee should have put those applications into the state system as being ineligible but didn't, Putnam said.

"I think they're tidying up shop as we speak and I think the department of agriculture's gonna do the best that they can to make sure that this never occurs again", Fernandez said.

Data on the state's website shows the Division of Licensing handled nearly 275,000 new concealed weapon applications and nearly 175,000 renewals in the 12 months from July 1, 2016, until June 30, 2017. They were a willful neglect of her very important duty to run background checks to ensure public safety. "I should have been doing it and I didn't", she said. That time frame witnessed a surge in concealed carry applications, which included 245,000 applications in the fiscal year ending in 2016 alone.

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. Ultimately, 291 permits were revoked.

He laid the blame exclusively on the employee who forgot the password had signaled the problem to another official but then failed to pursue the matter. But the investigation said she didn't follow up after she continued to experience problems and never accessed the system again. She then claimed that when she was entrusted with the database in 2013, she was only a mailroom employee.

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"I didn't understand why I was put in charge of it", she told the Tampa Bay Times. While 54,045 new applications were filed in June and July a year before the massacre, that number rose by almost 24,000 for the same two months in 2016. The employee reached out to FDLE, which handles appeals for denials. When a state agency noticed a lack of appeals, it discovered the problem with the NICS checks and asked the inspector general to investigate. 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.

"It seemed like he wasn't minding the store when we needed him to be there", DeSantis told reporters afterward.

Retail firearms dealers use the NICS system for background checks anytime a person buys a firearm.

Employees in the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services stopped using the database for more than a year, an investigation found.

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.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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