Putnam: Background checks were done; my office didn't check them

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The Tampa Bay Times reported Friday that a report from the Florida inspector general found that the office of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam - a self-described "Proud NRA sellout" - did not conduct the background checks from February 2016 to March 2017.

According to the inspector general's report, NICS checks are considered "extremely important" and the lack of such checks for over a year may have resulted in concealed weapons permits being "issued to potentially ineligible individuals".

"The employee in charge of the background checks could not log into the system", the Times' report noted based on the IG report.

The fiscal year ending in 2017 saw 275,000 applications. Now, the Department of Agriculture is setting the record straight. All of them were run through three different background check systems - two criminal databases that use a fingerprint check and the NICS system, which uses personal identifying information to determine if someone is ineligible due to a drug use conviction, if they are an undocumented immigrant, they were involuntarily committed or were dishonorably discharged from the military.

As of May 31, there were more than 1.9 million concealed-weapons licenses issued by the state. Putnam has raised the ire of gun control advocates for his proclamation previous year that he was a "proud NRA sellout" who supports the National Rifle Association. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Commerce Services had already gone 40 days without running a NICS check by the time that employee contacted the Department of Law Enforcement.

But he acknowledged that an employee in his office failed to review the results of those background checks, which led to 291 people receiving permits who were not supposed to have them.

The Department, meanwhile, said that it "immediately" fired the employee after becoming aware of her non-compliance with the procedure, and it "thoroughly reviewed every application potentially impacted".

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.

In March of 2017, another employee wondered why the department had not recently received any notices of denials, "which was unusual".

Of those, Putnam's office conducted a further review on 365 applicants and then revoked 291 of their concealed carry permits.

In a Friday interview with the Times, Wilde said the licensing department was overwhelmed with the number of applications and she was under pressure from supervisors to quickly approve applications. Someone from his office responded by re-copying and pasting the statement from Friday night, with an attached copy of the investigation report.

The NCIS is used to screen for "non-criminal disqualifying offenses". Florida allows qualified gun owners to carry a firearm in public with the necessary permitting.

Later that day, Grea Bevis, the department's director of licensing, backtracked and said "the gap is not completely shut yet". But the legislation was pulled after the deadly mass shooting in Parkland. "I also want to know why, if this report was done a year ago, why are we just now finding out about this?"

"I didn't understand why I was put in charge of it".

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