Putnam's office responds to Tampa Bay Times report

Florida Stopped Running Concealed Carry Background Checks for a Year Due to Technical Difficulties

An Office of Inspector General report from June 2017 -- obtained by the Times in a public records request -- said that between February 2016 and March 2017, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services didn't access an Federal Bureau of Investigation crime database called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System because an employee was unable to log into the system.

"The employee in charge of the background checks could not log into the system", the Times' report noted based on the IG report.

On Friday, the Times reported that the state of Florida failed to conduct national background checks on tens of thousands of applications but should have more precisely stated that the background checks were not reviewed, which is an essential part of the approval process. Of those, 291 were eventually revoked because, the report said, that employee was negligent.

That's particularly damning since Putnam, in effect Florida's gun czar, campaigned on a determination to speed up concealed carry applications.

But the Florida Democratic party is accusing Putnam of "gross mismanagement" that likely "put the lives of thousands of Floridians at risk", quotes the Orlando Weekly. 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.

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. And Philip Levine, a former Miami Beach mayor, called for an investigation and said Putnam has forfeited "any moral right to lead".

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". It wasn't until March of the next year another employee noticed a problem. 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.

We responded to the email from Putnam's office, asking why the commissioner didn't immediately publicly address the investigation after it was finished past year.

"I will continue to hold all of my people accountable across the entire department for all of the responsibilities we have, including licensing, but not limited to licensing", Putnam said.

The report came to light Friday when the Tampa Bay Times reported on the problem. Florida Democrats say the "damning and disturbing" report from the Times should disqualify the Republican from being governor. "It was only on those 365 that the employee failed in her duties to protect the public". It said an employee stopped doing the checks because she couldn't log into the database.

"I didn't understand why I was put in charge of it", she told the Tampa Bay Times.

Since 2003, Florida has housed concealed weapons permitting under the Department of Agriculture. These revocations could be due to mitigating factors such as drug usage, mental illness, and more non-criminal disqualifications for a concealed carry.

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