Washington (AFP) – The US state of Florida went more than a year without conducting national background checks on thousands of applications to carry concealed weapons, potentially granting some criminals the legal right to carry hidden side arms, according to a report.
An investigation by the inspector general of the state’s Agriculture Department, which issues such permits, found that it had stopped using an FBI crime database from February 2016 to March 2017 because an employee had forgotten a password needed to log into the system, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
During that period — which covered the June 12, 2016 nightclub shooting in Orlando that killed 50 people — the state saw an “unprecedented spike” in applications for concealed weapons permits, the newspaper said.
Those applications surged from 134,000 in the fiscal year ending in June 2015 to 275,000 two years later.
The inspector general said the manager who forgot the password had signaled the problem to another official but then failed to pursue the matter. She has since been fired.
The Florida agriculture commissioner, Adam Putnam, a Republican who is running for governor, issued a statement late Friday saying that background checks were ultimately carried out on all applications submitted during the 13-month period.
It said it was the employee’s responsibility to review 365 applications that did not pass the federal system and that she had failed to do so. Upon discovering the problem, Putnam’s office said, the 365 applications were reviewed and 291 licenses were revoked.
Putnam had bragged in the past about speeding the processing time for gun permits. In a July 2017 tweet he called himself “a proud #NRASellout,” referring to the pro-gun National Rifle Association.
Florida has reciprocity with more than 30 other states that allow the concealed carrying of sidearms, so in theory a license issued there would be deemed valid in most of the country.