Florida stopped do­ing gun per­mit checks for more than a year; em­ployee is fired

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - WEATHER DESK -

TAL­LA­HAS­SEE, Fla. — For more than a year, Florida failed to do na­tional back­ground checks that could have dis­qual­i­fied peo­ple from gain­ing a per­mit to carry a con­cealed weapon.

The lapse, re­vealed in an in­ter­nal re­port that was not widely known about un­til Fri­day, oc­curred dur­ing a pe­riod when there was a sig­nif­i­cant surge in the num­ber of peo­ple seek­ing per­mis­sion to legally carry a con­cealed weapon. Florida does not al­low the open carry of weapons, but more than 1.9 mil­lion have per­mits to carry guns and weapons in pub­lic if they are con­cealed.

The state ul­ti­mately re­voked

291 per­mits and fired an em­ployee blamed for the lapse af­ter an in­spec­tor gen­eral’s re­port de­tail­ing the prob­lem was sent in June 2017 to top of­fi­cials in the depart­ment who over­see the pro­gram. The re­port pointed out that the state failed to check the Na­tional In­stant Crim­i­nal Back­ground Check Sys­tem from Fe­bru­ary 2016 to March 2017.

Agri­cul­ture Com­mis­sioner

Adam Put­nam, a Repub­li­can run­ning for gov­er­nor who has touted his ef­forts to make it eas­ier for peo­ple to ob­tain con­cealed-weapons per­mits, said the state did con­duct its own crim­i­nal back­ground checks on those ap­ply­ing for per­mits dur­ing that pe­riod.

Put­nam blamed the prob­lem on the neg­li­gence of a depart­ment em­ployee.

“The for­mer em­ployee was both de­ceit­ful and neg­li­gent, and we im­me­di­ately launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and im­ple­mented safe­guards to en­sure this never hap­pens again,” Put­nam said in a state­ment.

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.

Democrats and gun con­trol ad­vo­cates quickly crit­i­cized Put­nam over the in­ci­dent and said he should re­sign. Put­nam has raised the ire of gun con­trol ad­vo­cates for his procla­ma­tion last year that he was a “proud NRA sell­out” who sup­ports the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion. He also said he would not have signed the new gun and school safety law en­acted by the Florida Leg­is­la­ture in the af­ter­math of the shoot­ing at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School in Park­land.

“Ca­reer politi­cians like Mr. Put­nam think this is just an­other bad day at the of­fice — but when you con­ceal a level of neg­li­gence that en­dan­gers ev­ery res­i­dent, and ev­ery child, in Florida, you for­feit any moral right to lead,” said for­mer Mi­ami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, one of the Demo­cratic can­di­dates run­ning for gov­er­nor.

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. But in March 2017, an in­ves­ti­ga­tion was trig­gered af­ter a state em­ployee noted that the state was not get­ting any cor­re­spon­dence from peo­ple whose ap­pli­ca­tions had been re­jected due to in­for­ma­tion gleaned from the na­tional data­base.

The fi­nal re­port, is­sued in June 2017, states that an em­ployee in the Di­vi­sion of Li­cens­ing did not run ap­pli­ca­tions through the na­tional sys­tem be­cause she couldn’t log into the data­base. The em­ployee is quoted in the re­port as say­ing that she “dropped the ball.”

The Times in­ter­viewed the em­ployee, Lisa Wilde, who told them she was work­ing in the mail­room when she was given over­sight of the data­base in 2013.

“I didn’t un­der­stand why I was put in charge of it,” Wilde told the news­pa­per.


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