Did Florida Fail To Perform NICS Checks On Permit Holders?

Over the weekend, a firestorm has erupted as pro-gun candidate Adam Putnam found himself under the gun. It seems a report surfaced that Putnam’s office failed to perform required NICS checks. In fact, it’s claimed that no one logged into the NICS system at all.

Adam Putnam, Florida’s agriculture commissioner and a leading candidate for the Republican nomination for the state’s governorship, declared his candidacy on May 10, 2017, from the steps of a courthouse in his hometown outside of Tampa.

“People want leadership that’s conservative,” he said at the time. “They’re tired of people misleading them about the scope of the problem or the difficulty of the solutions.”

That same day, an investigator for the Office of Inspector General submitted a report that found that the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which processes concealed weapons permits in the state, neglected to do federal background checks on tens of thousands of people who had applied for concealed weapons permits for about a year.

Though it is more than a year old, the report was published Friday after the Tampa Bay Times obtained it through a records request.

Putnam has been a large booster of guns in the state, the Times pointed out, touting the increases in speed in processing the permits, celebrating when the state issued its millionth permit and, perhaps most famously, calling himself a “proud NRA sellout!” on Twitter. He has also proposed legislation “that would require permits to be approved in cases when an application is in limbo because background checks are inconclusive,” the Times wrote, though the legislation was scrapped after the shooting in Parkland, Fla.

From February 2016 through March 2017, the office did not log into the NICS database for checks, according to testimony in the report.

That’s a pretty serious charge.

However, there are reasons to doubt things happened quite like they’re being claimed. Miguel at Gun Free Zone took the time over the weekend to delve into the IG report in question, and he found some interesting things to note.

Here is the thing: The OIG report only mentions one individual,  Lisa Wilde, failing to upload  the applications to the NICS system. I do not pretend to know how the process goes exactly, but I am sure she is not the only one processing the background of people applying for Florida’s CWP.

We are talking a total of 274,470 applications (268,000 approved plus 6,470 denied) processed in a space of 44 weeks or 1,766 hours. That comes to 152 background checks an hour or 2.5 checks every minute if my math is not out there. 2.5 checks every minute without any bathroom breaks or lunch or even stretching every so often to relieve cramped muscles. Call me cynic, but I doubt that just one person processed that many.

The OIG report never mentions numbers at all so all the numbers published are just speculations. And there is still the issue of permits denied which you can be sure not all of the applications were rejected because they applicants forgot to write their address as the article desperate tries to hint away.

I’m forced to agree. The sheer number of applications indicates that there was someone other than Wilde at work on the process. While NICS checks can come back pretty quickly, I doubt they come back quickly enough to do two and a half applications every minute. Especially since information needs to be input for the check to take place.

However, the employee mentioned was reported by the Washington Post to be a manager. In other words, she was the one in charge, so it’s also possible that underlings were responsible for inputting the data, but Wilde was somehow responsible for making sure the process was followed by logging into the NICS system.

Without knowing the inner workings of how this particular office functioned, it’s difficult to tell fact from fiction on this one.

What I do know is that if this happened the way the media is describing it, there was a major problem. Putnam’s office told the Tampa Bay Times, “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.”

But again, if what has been reported is accurate–and I’m not ready to accept that one just yet–then the potential still existed for prohibited persons to have gotten their hands on concealed carry permits. After all, the Sutherland Springs shooter tried to get one despite his dishonorable discharge from the Air Force. He was denied.

Still, there is likely to be more blowback from his case. We’ll just have to wait and see how that goes.