Saturday, June 9, 2018

The Gunshine State Shines On

For some unfathomable reason, Florida's concealed carry permits are handled by the state's Agriculture department (because I guess gators really don't need to know if you're packing a Glock) but in a scathing new report from the office's inspector general, Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam, the GOP's candidate for Governor, apparently hasn't been checking any concealed carry permit applications against any federal databases because the employee doing it forgot his password for a year.

For more than a year, the state of Florida failed to conduct national background checks on tens of thousands of applications for concealed weapons permits, potentially allowing drug addicts or people with a mental illness to carry firearms in public.

A previously unreported Office of Inspector General investigation found that in February 2016 the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services stopped using a 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.

During that time, which coincided with the June 12, 2016 shooting at Pulse nightclub that left 50 dead, the state saw an unprecedented spike in applications for concealed weapons permits. There were 134,000 requests for permits in the fiscal year ending in June 2015. The next 12 months broke a record, 245,000 applications, which was topped again in 2017 when the department received 275,000 applications.

Department employees interviewed for the report called the NICS checks "extremely important." Concealed weapons licenses "may have been issued to potentially ineligible individuals." If it came out they weren't conducted, "this could cause an embarrassment to the agency," the report said.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has made it a priority to speed up the issuing of concealed weapons permits since he was elected in 2010. In 2012, he held a news conference to celebrate the state's one millionth concealed weapons permit, noting the time it took to process an application fell from 12 weeks to 35 days on his watch. There are now 1.8 million concealed weapon permit holders in Florida.

Now running for Florida governor as a Republican, Putnam's campaign touts his expansion of concealed carry permits as one of his top accomplishments.

And it was accomplished in record time for one reason: because the background checks weren't done at all.

Going to be interesting to see how Putnam's campaign defends this, especially in the light of the Pulse nightclub shooting and the Parkland High massacre.  My guess is they'll blame the employee and ignore it.  It'll also be interesting to see how the other Republicans in the primary, particularly Ron DeSantis, responds.  Florida's primary isn't until the end of August however, so there's plenty of time.

We'll see.  Putnam should resign his post and drop out of the race for such massive dereliction of duty, but that won't happen of course. Republicans never do actually give a damn about the job, only the power.

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