For over a year, Florida allowed citizens to obtain concealed weapon permits without a background check because an employee couldn’t log in to a national database that tracked people deemed unfit to own weapons in other states, a previously unreported government investigation has revealed.
The 2017 document, which was first reported on Friday by the Tampa Bay Times, revealed that starting in February 2016, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services stopped using an FBI crime database because an employee in charge of background checks could not log in to the system.
The database, called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, is used by state officials to keep track of applicants who want to carry guns and who may also have a criminal history or documented mental health issues in other states.
The issue was not corrected until March 2017, according to the investigation, which was conducted by the state agriculture department’s Office of Inspector General.
Record requests by the Tampa Bay Times revealed the negligence, with the final state investigation revealing that it was employee Lisa Wilde who had a “login issue” with the database but never followed up to get it fixed.
Wilde told investigators that she “neglected to do it for almost a year.” It was ultimately more than a year.
“I dropped the ball ― I know I did that, I should have been doing it and I didn’t,” Wilde said.
As the Times points out, tens of thousands of applications went unchecked during that period, in a state that saw a surge of requests to get weapon permits following the June 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting that left 50 people dead. The state saw horror again in February of this year when 17 people were gunned down at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
When questioned by investigators, Wilde looked “bewildered, and stated: I had a login issue and never followed up,” the investigative report says.
State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican now running for governor, bragged in 2012 that under his leadership, the process of getting a concealed permit application fell from 12 weeks to 35 days.
Wilde is now out of a job, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
“The integrity of our department’s licensing program is our highest priority,” Aaron Keller, a department spokesman, told the paper. “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.”
Reached for comment, Putnam told HuffPost that 365 applications were flagged for additional scrutiny after Wilde’s conduct was discovered. Nearly 300 of those applicants had their permits revoked.
“To be clear, a criminal background investigation was completed on every single application,” Putnam said. “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. The former employee was both deceitful and negligent, and we immediately launched an investigation and implemented safeguards to ensure this never happens again.”
Keller did not immediately respond to a question about why Putnam mentioned 365 applications when the Tampa Bay Times cited “tens of thousands.”
This story has been updated with comment from Putnam.