Background checks on applications to carry a concealed weapon were not completed for more than a year in Florida, an investigation has found.
The report, from the Office of Inspector General Investigation and first reported on by Tampa Bay Times, was not widely known about until Friday.
It found that the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services stopped using results from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to conduct background checks for non-criminal offences from February 2016 to March 2017.
The employee who had been in charge of the background checks was said to have not been able to log onto the system and it wasn’t until March 2017 that another employee discovered the problem, according to the paper.
The employee was sacked and 291 permits revoked.
Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam, who once referred to himself as an ‘NRA sellout’, said in a statement:
A criminal background investigation was 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.
The former employee was both deceitful and negligent, and we immediately launched an investigation and implemented safeguards to ensure this never happens again.
In a press conference, Putnam criticised the Tampa Bay Times article, which stated tens of thousands of applications to carry concealed weapons were not checked, as "wrong and misleading", Sky News reports.
Putnam added that the NICS database is used for "non-criminal disqualifying offenses" and the state did conduct background checks using the Florida Crime Information Center and the National Crime Information Center databases.
NICS was launched by the FBI in 1993 to ‘instantly determine whether a prospective buyer is eligible to buy firearms’. It allows states to check those applying for concealed gun permits didn’t have a disqualifying history in other states.
Aaron Keller, a spokesperson for the department said:
The integrity of our department's licensing program is our highest priority.
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.
In the report, the employee, Lisa Wilde, admitted she "dropped the ball".
I dropped the ball. I know that, I should have been doing it and didn’t.
The reported concluded that the employee "never followed up to resolve the issue".
Wilde told the Times that she was working in the mailroom when she was given oversight of the database.
I didn’t understand why I was put in charge of it.
There was reportedly an unprecedented rise in applications for concealed weapons permits in this time. According to the Times, there were 245,000 applications in the fiscal year ending June 2017, up from 245,000 applications the previous year and 134,000 in the fiscal year ending June 2015.
Also around this period, in June 2016, 50 people were killed following a mass shooting outside Pulse nightclub in Florida.
Survivors of the Parkland school shooting are campaigning across the US for tighter gun control following the Parkland shooting that killing 17 people earlier this year.
Florida does not allow the open carry of weapons, but more than 1.9 million people in the state have permits to do so if they are concealed.
indy100 has contacted the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.