An employee reviews a customer's application as part of a background check for a handgun sale, in Houston, Texas.
Photo by Michael Stravato/New York Times/Redux

Why Florida failed to do concealed weapons background checks

Between February 2016 and March 2017, Florida was supposed to be conducting background checks on tens of thousands of applications for concealed weapons permits, but didn’t. Why not? For that, let’s turn to a report from the Tampa Bay Times.

A previously unreported Office of Inspector General investigation found that in February 2016 the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services stopped using an FBI crime database called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System that ensures applicants who want to carry a gun do not have a disqualifying history in other states.

The employee in charge of the background checks could not log into the system, the investigator learned. The problem went unresolved until discovered by another worker in March 2017 — meaning that for more than a year, applications got approved without the required background check.

I should note that the Timesreport hasn’t been confirmed by MSNBC or NBC News. That said, state officials aren’t exactly denying what transpired, and when Florida’s Office of Inspector General interviewed employees for its report, officials conceded that concealed weapons licenses “may have been issued to potentially ineligible individuals.”

In fact, quite a few concealed weapons licenses may have been issued to Floridians who weren’t supposed to receive them. The same article noted that the Pulse nightclub shooting occurred in June 2016 – roughly in the middle of the period in question – and after the massacre, Florida saw a record number of requests for concealed weapons permits.

But because Florida is Florida, the person in charge of conducting background checks apparently couldn’t log into the FBI system – so checks didn’t happen. Applications were approved anyway.

The political angle to the story makes it just a little worse.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is led by a prominent Republican official named Adam Putnam, who not only took great pride in streamlining the concealed-weapons-permits system, but who also happens to be a leading gubernatorial candidate this year.

He’s also on record bragging about being a “proud NRA sellout.”

Putnam hosted a press conference over the weekend, assuring the public that his office has corrected the problem. He added that, according to his department’s research, some Floridians did, in fact, get permits who weren’t supposed to, and 291 permits have now been revoked.

For what it’s worth, Putnam was generally seen as the frontrunner for the GOP gubernatorial nomination this year, but that was before Donald Trump expressed support for Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), whom the president saw on television. This latest news may very well affect the race further.


Why Florida failed to do concealed weapons background checks