Tallahassee, FL – The state of Florida did not conduct national background checks on hundreds of thousands of applications for concealed weapons permits because the person responsible could not log into the system.
The lapse potentially allowed drug addicts or people with mental illness to carry firearms in public, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
The Office of Inspector General did an investigation and found that in February of 2016 the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services stopped using the FBI crime database.
The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System ensures applicants who want to carry a gun are eligible, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The state investigator learned that the employee in charge of the background checks couldn’t log into the system. That went unresolved until discovered by another worker in March of 2017.
The investigation showed the lapse was discovered when an employee questioned why the state wasn't getting any notices of denials for gun permits.
That meant for more than a year, applications were approved without the required background check, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
While the state was no longer doing the required background check, there was a coinciding large increase in the number of applications for concealed weapons.
There were 134,000 requests for permits in the fiscal year ending in June 2015. That number increased to 245,000 in fiscal year 2016 and then jumped again to 275,000 in fiscal year 2017, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
"The integrity of our department's licensing program is our highest priority," said Aaron Keller, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “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."
According to the state, there were 365 applications that required a further review of a background check. The state then conducted a background check on each of those 365 applications and ended up revoking 291 of the permits, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
"The former employee was both deceitful and negligent, and we immediately launched an investigation and implemented safeguards to ensure this never happens again," said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Putnam is now running for governor.