TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - For more than a year, Florida failed to do national background checks on people applying for concealed weapons permits.
An inspector general's report sent to Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in 2017 highlighted the problem. It said an employee stopped doing the checks because she couldn't log into the FBI database.
Putnam is running for governor and has pushed to make it easier for people to get a concealed weapons permit.
Florida has more than 1.9 million people licensed to carry concealed weapons.
A spokesman for Putnam said Friday that the employee responsible for the problem had been fired. Aaron Keller said every application that had been potentially impacted had been reviewed.
The Tampa Bay Times first reported on the inspector general's report.
Putnam released this statement Friday in response to the Tampa Bay Times article:
"To be clear, a criminal background investigation was completed on every single one of the 349,923 concealed weapon license applications submitted from February 2016 to March 2017.
"All applicants for a Florida concealed weapon license submit fingerprints that are checked against the Florida Crime Information Center database (FCIC), National Crime Information Center database (NCIC) and National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) for disqualifying offenses.
"It was the responsibility of this employee to review the 365 applications that did not pass the NICS system and the Inspector General’s investigation determined she failed to do her job.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"A concealed weapon license does not authorize the purchase of a firearm. Anyone seeking to purchase a gun must undergo a background check performed by (the Florida Department of Law Enforcement) at the time of purchase."
State Sen. Linda Stewart, who represents part of Orlando, issued a statement Friday night, calling for Putnam to resign.
"I am extremely alarmed at the failure by Commissioner Putnam to disclose that his agency had failed to conduct these critical background checks – allowing possibly mentally disturbed individuals and others who should be disqualified, to be legally armed in Florida," Stewart said. "I'm equally alarmed that officials from his agency tried to conceal the lax oversight by pushing legislation to cover up that failure, and downplayed the real reasons for the bill. He needs to resign."
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