Florida governor calls lapse in background checks disturbing

San Franciso Chronicle by Gary Fineout

June 11, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Monday questioned how the state office under fellow Republican Adam Putnam went more than a year without completing background checks used to determine if someone could get a concealed-weapons permit.

Scott’s criticism came at the same time that Democratic legislators formally requested that GOP leaders in the House and Senate initiate investigations into the lapse that ultimately led the state to revoke permits from 291 people.

“It’s disturbing,” Scott told reporters after a campaign event in Tampa. “We all expect our government to do their job. What I’ve read so far is very concerning.”

Putnam, the state’s agriculture commissioner who is now running for governor, oversees the office responsible for processing and handing out concealed-weapons permits in the state. Florida does not allow the open carry of weapons, but more than 1.9 million residents have permits to carry guns and weapons if they are concealed.

An inspector general’s report released in June 2017 — but not widely known about until last week — showed that an employee in Putnam’s office failed to review applications through a national database for more than a year because she couldn’t log into the system. The employee was ultimately fired and the state then revoked permits it determined had been issued to people who were ineligible for them.

Officials say the state did conduct criminal background checks, however, and last Saturday Putnam insisted that “no one’s safety was put at risk.” He said the fired employee’s job was to review applications flagged by the national database. Putnam said he has made changes in the department to ensure it won’t happen again.

“This was a very serious issue. We took immediate action,” Putnam said.

Putnam called news media coverage of the lapse misleading. He said he initiated the inspector general’s report that resulted in the employee’s firing.

That is not clear in the inspector general’s report, however.

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