The state of Florida has recently declared 291 approved weapon permits null after it was declared that a state employee failed to make an efficient review of candidates’ criminal backgrounds. According to a report by state officials, the checkups were not done at all since the employee wasn’t able to log into the system.
According to Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, several Florida citizens received weapon permits and, if the procedure had been done properly, their applications would’ve been declined. According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Customer Services, the employee disregarded the necessity of checking the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to approve an application. Putnam has stated that his department is currently working to avoid this from ever happening again.
He mentioned at a press conference that the three mandatory checkups for getting a weapon permit are “state and federal fingerprint-based searches of criminal records, and a name-based search through the NICS to search for non-criminal records”. The information found at any of the three investigations could compromise the entire application. In this case, the problem occurred when the employee did not label NICS-flagged applications as ineligible in the state system, which was caused by a login error. The applications were filed during a thirteen month period between February of 2016 and March of last year.
The employee has reportedly been fired from the department, after several years of working in that position. The report used in the case attached some emails in which she asked for help to enter the system and mentioned that she couldn’t access the files she needed. The email exchange was inconclusive and she did not push forward to solve her condition. Her case was covered by the Tampa Bay Times, and it has been reported that she was under pressure to check several applications in short amounts of time. This was due to the fact that Putnam made it a priority to “speed up the issuing of concealed weapons permits” since he was elected. He tweeted a response to claims that he is too invested in issuing the permits, which read: “The liberal media recently called me a sellout to the NRA. I’m a proud #NRASellout!”
The error was noticed when comparing the number of accepted applications between the thirteen months and the following July, with the latter having a significantly smaller amount. The lack of decision appeals was also a matter of concern and something that made the department check the system and find the error.
Putnam is currently running for Governor of Florida, and his opponent Congressman Ron DeSantis used these recent events to hurt his reputation. DeSantis told reporters: “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.”
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services released a statement to avoid the misinterpreting of events. It mentioned that “Upon discovery of this former employee’s negligence in March of 2017, the department immediately launched an audit of the 365 applications she failed to review” and that “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.” The department also focused on confirming Florida citizens that they have since toughened and reviewed their application process. Putnam has also remarked that it is his interest to maintain a good reputation for his department and the weapon license application process in Florida, which is why he rushed to explain the situation and act upon it.
According to the Times, the NICS system is also used to identify incidents from outside Florida, which will influence a person’s future applications for weapon permits.