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Fla. didn't conduct required concealed weapons background checks for more than a year: report

Fla. didn't conduct required concealed weapons background checks for more than a year: report
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The Florida state office responsible for conducting national background checks for concealed weapons permit applicants failed to do so for more than a year, according to a state investigation reported on Friday by the Tampa Bay Times.

Beginning in February 2016, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services did not conduct the checks because the employee in charge of the procedure was unable to log into the necessary FBI federal database.

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The Times reported that a state Office of Inspector General investigation discovered the state employee’s technical trouble with the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The OIG probe was previously unreported.

The investigation — concluded in June 2017 — found that the employee in charge of the background checks, identified as Lisa Wilde, was negligent.

The timing of the investigation overlapped with the June 2016 shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando that left 49 people dead. There was a large spike in concealed carry applications following the incident, with a record number of 245,000 applications for fiscal 2016, according to the Times. 

Wilde told the Tampa Bay Times that the department was “overwhelmed” by the high number of applications and that she was pressured to approve them quickly. She did say that she “dropped the ball” on the task.

“I know I did that," she said. "I should have been doing it and I didn't."

A spokesman for the department told the paper that Wilde had been terminated.

“As soon as we learned that one employee failed to review applicants' noncriminal disqualifying information, we immediately terminated the employee, thoroughly reviewed every application potentially impacted, and implemented safeguards to prevent this from happening again,” Aaron Keller said.

The issue was discovered by another employee in March 2017, by which time more than 268,000 permits were issued without the proper vetting for noncriminal disqualifying reasons.

The for applications seen in fiscal 2016 climbed again in fiscal 2017, with 275,000 applications.

Department employees told state investigators that concealed weapons permits “may have been issued to potentially ineligible individuals,” according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who was the head of the office during those months, is currently running in the GOP primary for governor in Florida.

He has touted his pro-gun rights stances, including the office’s expansion of concealed carry permits under his watch, and has highlighted the decrease in turnaround time for applicants.

The report comes amid an intensified national conversation on gun control, particularly in Florida, where 17 people were killed in a school shooting in February.

The grocery store Publix suspended its political contributions last month after survivors of the school shooting staged a “die-in” protest over its donations to Putnam.