Florida's ag commish defends himself against gun-check lapse

Howard TerryJun 11, 2018

The employee was sacked and 291 permits were revoked. "Putnam's failure to fulfill the basic duties of his office raise serious questions about his ability to lead Florida".

The system is run by GOP Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who is now running for governor. "I didn't wait on a news story to take action".

A Florida agency in charge of vetting applicants for concealed gun carry permits didn't run tens of thousands of them against an Federal Bureau of Investigation database, as an employee could not log in.

Florida's agriculture commissioner promises his office will never again fail to do follow-up checks that could disqualify people from gaining a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

A spokesman for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which oversees the Division of Licensing, said that that NICS was only consulted for "non-criminal disqualifying offenses" and that the department conducted criminal background checks using two other databases maintained by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

While there are no statistics as to exactly how many applications went unchecked during that time, it may be well over 260,000, as within the fiscal year from July 2016 to June 2017, a total of 268,000 applications were approved, while 6,470 were denied.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - For more than a year, Florida failed to do national background checks on people applying for concealed weapons permits.

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 Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said this negligence resulted in 365 individuals being allowed to purchase guns without proper approval. Putnam said his office later determined that 291 people received permits who shouldn't have.

Last month, victims of the Parkland tragedy and activists conducted die-ins at Publix grocery stores and called for a boycott of the company after it was reported that the supermarket chain donated more money to Putnam than any candidate in history. He said he ordered the inspector general investigation immediately after he was informed about the problem.

During the investigation into her conduct, the employee admitted she had "dropped the ball" and confessed she had not told anyone she had not been able to log on for a year. The only other employee who regularly accessed NICS data was a mailroom supervisor who was barely trained in the system, the report stated.

Department employees interviewed for the report called the NICS checks "extremely important". The lapse was revealed in an inspector general's report sent to Putnam in 2017.

McKinley Lewis, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Rick Scott, said the governor's office was never provided a copy of the inspector general's report.

Putnam gave no indication Saturday he was even considering it.

But Marion Hammer, the National Rifle Association's longtime lobbyist in Florida, pointed to political motivations in the outcry from Democrats.

"Adam has spent years campaigning for governor, basically, in this position and the report was very concerning because it seemed like he wasn't minding the store when we needed him to be there", DeSantis told reporters at a campaign appearance in Pensacola. "I didn't understand why I was put in charge of it", she added.

Putnam said the employee no longer works for his department.

"I'm here to solve problems", Putnam said.

The report came to light Friday when the Tampa Bay Times reported on the problem.

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