SATURDAY UPDATE: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam held a Saturday afternoon news conference to clarify what he called errors in the Tampa Bay Times story. Specifically he said only 365 concealed weapon permit applications were not checked by the data base in question, not the tens of thousands alluded to in the initial report.
Putnam said once they learned that an employee had not done the checks, the department reviewed the 365 applications in question.
Watch Putnam’s forceful response at today’s news conference
UPDATE: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam released a statement addressing the controversy:
“To be clear, a criminal background investigation was completed on every single application. 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 former employee was both deceitful and negligent, and we immediately launched an investigation and implemented safeguards to ensure this never happens again.”
Putnam has yet to explain why the inspector general’s report exposing the issue was hidden from the public for more than a year
ORIGINAL STORY: In what may be one of the biggest bureaucratic bungles of all-time, the Florida Department of Agriculture failed to conduct background checks for a one-year period for people applying for concealed weapons permits. A story first reported by the Tampa Bay Times places the blame on the employee responsible for conducting the background checks. The now-fired employee was apparently locked-out of the computer system that logged into the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System and she failed to resolve the problem. A state inspector general’s report uncovered the alleged incompetency.
From February 2016 to March 2017, concealed weapons applications were approved without the background checks, which are required by state law. The inspector general’s report concluded that permits “may have been issued to potentially ineligible individuals.” Ineligible individuals would include people convicted of drug-related crimes, undocumented immigrants, former members of the military who were dishonorably discharged and someone involuntarily committed for a mental health issue. The department did use other databases to see if an applicant had a violent criminal record.
This discovery could severly impact Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s campaign for governor. The Times story did not accuse Putnam of knowing about the failure until it was discovered in March 2017. Once discovered, the department did review every application during the 12-month period. It’s unknown how many permits were issued to people ineligible to receive one.