Adam Putnam, Florida’s pro-gun Commissioner of Agriculture and gubernatorial candidate, says stories of his office’s failure to perform checks on carry permits for a year are misleading.
The Tampa Bay Times last week broke the story of a year-old report by the Florida Office of Inspector General that found Putnam’s office did not run permit applicants through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System for a period between February 2016 and March 2017. The reason for the failure was because the employee tasked with running the checks, Lisa Wilde, could not access the database due to problems with her log-on. Putnam fired back that the Times story and subsequent reports based on it were misleading.
In a press conference on the controversy, Putnam said reports that “there were no background checks for a year are flat wrong, misleading,” going on to say that “a criminal background check was completed on every single one of the 349,923 concealed weapons licence applications that were submitted between February 2016 and March 2017.”
The Commissioner said those who were applying for licenses to carry concealed weapons were vetted through the Florida Criminal Information Computer system and the Nation Criminal Information Computer system before being issued a permit. The NICS database was queried at the same time and produced 365 applications for further review, but Wilde failed in her job to follow-up on those flagged reports. In the immediate aftermath of the OIG investigation into the matter, which found Wilde negligent, 291 of the 365 who were issued permits despite the NICS flag, had their permits revoked and Putnam’s office has implemented safeguards to prevent a reoccurrence.
“Just so you know, there are three databases that are part of this process,” said Putnam. “Two are fingerprint-based databases. The third, the NICS system, is a name-based system. That is the system that the follow-up was not followed by the employee.”
Putnam said the 365 flagged applicants had non-criminal records indexed in NICS. Among the non-criminal prohibited firearm possessor categories producing denials in the federal database are for mental health issues, illegal aliens, those who have renounced their citizenship, and for people dishonorably discharged from the military.
The Commissioner went on to point out that none of the 291 persons who ultimately had their permits revoked would have been able to legally purchase a firearm over the counter at a gun shop in the country as they would have been denied before the transfer by the NICS system on a mandatory check run by the federal firearms licensee.
Putnam, who is running for governor and has blasted fellow-Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s decision to sign gun control proposals into law, has overseen Florida’s concealed carry licensing program for nearly a decade. In that time, he has moved to expedite licenses for those in the military, helped usher in a reduction in costs as well as an online renewal process. Since declaring his intention to move into Florida’s governor’s mansion last year he has also been a vocal advocate for open carry and campus carry, two practices that have been repeatedly rejected in the state’s legislature.
Gun control groups, to include Everytown and Giffords, have slammed Putnam in the immediate aftermath of the report but before his rebuttal, calling for him to resign.
“Adam Putnam is running on a ‘law and order platform,’ and yet his agriculture department issued concealed carry permits to tens of thousands of Americans without even conducting a background check,” said Shannon Watts with Moms Demand Action. “This is an egregious error that should end his political career.”
Marion Hammer, a past NRA president and current executive director of the group’s Florida affiliate says that facts matter and the facts don’t fit the narrative being pushed by Putnam’s political opponents.
“The media isn’t getting it right and anti-gun Democrats don’t want to get it right — for some, it’s all about attacking a candidate for political reasons,” said Hammer. “This issue is extremely important to all firearms owners and license holders.”
Florida currently has over 1.9 million active concealed carry permits, more than any other state.