The state of Florida reportedly didn’t conduct national background checks on tens of thousands of concealed weapon applicants for more than a year.
A previously unreported government investigation revealed the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services stopped using a F.B.I. crime database starting Feb.2016 because an employee in charge to do so was unable to log in to the system.
The National Instant Criminal Background Check System database tracks people who are considered unfit to own a weapon.
This means the state handed over guns to drug addicts, people with felonies or people with a documented mental illness in other states.
Office of Inspector General investigation conducted the investigation that went unresolved until March 2017. It also found out that the employee responsible for the background checks was Lisa Wilde who couldn’t log in into the system.
She reportedly informed the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) about the issue. However, she never followed up on it and didn’t get the issue resolved.
After more than a year, another employee realized that the department hadn’t received any notices of denials. The employee then contacted FDLE, however, by then already 268,000 permits had been issued without proper vetting.
During the investigation, Wilde said she “had a log in issue and never followed up.” She then defended herself and said she did so because she was pressured by her supervisors to approve the applications quickly.
“I dropped the ball ? I know I did that, I should have been doing it and I didn’t,” she said.
The employee further said she “neglected to do it for almost a year.” However, investigation revealed the negligence continued for more than a year.
Aaron Keller, a department spokesman, said Wilde had been terminated.
"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,” he said.
State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who was leading the department during that time, bragged about the decrease in the turnaround time for applicants.
He told The Huffington Post that after Wilde’s negligence was discovered, the department flagged 365 application for an additional review.
“To be clear, 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,” he said.
During the time when people were handed out guns without proper background checks, the state saw the deadly Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. A gunman armed with an assault rifle killed 49 people and wounding 53 others.
It was the deadliest single U.S. mass shooting incident, eclipsing the 2007 massacre of 32 people at Virginia Tech University.
Spotlight, Banner: Reuters, Jon Nazca