Putnam Draws Fire After Background Checks Report


The State of Florida issued concealed weapons permits without performing background checks for over a year because no one was able to log into a national database meant to track people with disqualifying histories, according to Florida's own Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The investigation by the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Office of Inspector General found an employee at the department stopped using a national FBI database - because she couldn't log in to it.

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.

Putnam said there were about 350,000 applicants during that time, all of which were initially approved for concealed carry permits.

"As soon as we learned that one employee failed to review applicants' non-criminal disqualifying information, we immediately terminated the employee, thoroughly reviewed every application potentially impacted, and implemented safeguards to prevent this from happening again".

"Career politicians like Mr. Putnam think this is just another bad day at the office - but when you hide 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.

"To be clear, a criminal background investigation was completed on every single application", Putnam said. In Florida, the Department of Agriculture is responsible for carrying out background checks for gun licenses.

That bloodbath spurred a historic spike in applications for carry permits, according to the Tampa Bay Times, which obtained a copy of the June 2017 inspector general's report through an open-records request.

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While the Office of Inspector General's investigation was ongoing, the department adopted safeguards into the application review process to ensure this never happens again. 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.

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.

Putnam blamed the employee, who he called "negligent and deceptive" for not acting on the results of the background check. There are now 1.8 million concealed weapon permit holders in Florida.

During that time, 349,923 people applied for concealed weapons permits, Putnam said.

Watch: Adam Putnam answers reporters' questions about the investigation and reports.

In her interview with investigators, Wilde acknowledged she "dropped the ball". "I should have been doing it and I didn't", she said. During that year, Florida received a record number of concealed carry permit applications - 245,000, compared to 134,000 applications the year before.

The NCIS is used to screen for "non-criminal disqualifying offenses".