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Florida didn’t run FBI background checks on gun buyers for a year—the reason why is mind-boggling
Augustas Didžgalvis/Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA)
There have been two massacres in Florida in the past two years.
The state of Florida, home to the second deadliest mass shooting on American soil andthe Parkland massacre earlier this year, went for more than a year without running FBI background checks on tens of thousands of applications for concealed weapons permits. As far as why this happened: An employee reportedly was unable to login to the system.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services stopped using the National Instant Criminal Background Check System FBI crime database in February 2016, and the discrepancy wasn’t discovered by another employee until March 2017. It’s worth noting that the aforementioned mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub that left 49 people dead and 50 injured happened during that window, in June 2016.
During this time, potential gun-buyers who would have normally been flagged—for reasons such as mental illness, having been involuntarily committed, serving prison time for more than a year, or dishonorably discharged from the military—passed freely through the system.
Lisa Wilde, the employee who was in charge of running background checks, has since been fired, although she admitted to the Times that she had been working in the mail room when she was first tasked with managing the database in 2013 and doesn’t understand why she was put in charge of it in the first place.
Meanwhile, the Times writes that Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has pushed to speed up the process of issuing concealed weapons permits—from 12 weeks to just 35 days—since he was elected to office in 2010. Putnam is now running for Florida governor with the expansion of concealed carry as one of the tent poles of his campaign.
Putnam has pushed back on criticism of his stance on gun control, and he even tweeted last year about being a “proud NRA sellout”—a full month after an investigation exposed his office for failing to run background checks.
— Adam Putnam (@adamputnam) July 26, 2017
Putnam provided a statement to the Times, saying that a criminal background investigation had been 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,” Putnam said in the statement. “The former employee was both deceitful and negligent, and we immediately launched an investigation and implemented safeguards to ensure this never happens again.”
Putnam recently proposed legislation that would require concealed carry permits to be approved in the case of inconclusive background checks that would otherwise put an application in limbo, but he dropped it after the Parkland shooting.
Putnam’s campaign has been a target for Parkland survivors and gun control activists, who recently staged a “die-in” and called for a boycott of Publix grocery stores after it was learned that the company had donated more money to him than any other candidate in history.
Stacey Ritzen is a reporter and editor based in West Philadelphia with over 10 years' experience covering pop culture, web culture, entertainment, and news. You can follow her on Twitter @staceyritzen.