Ns News Online Desk: Florida authorities approved concealed-carry pistol permits for more than a year without conducting complete background checks — because two state workers couldn’t log in to an FBI database, according to results of an internal investigation made public on Friday.
The stunning snafu means that unrestricted gun licenses “may have been issued to potentially ineligible individuals,” the probe found. An inspector general’s report says the state Division of Licensing failed to consult the National Instant Background Check System between between Feb. 26, 2016, and late March 2017, when an official noticed the agency hadn’t heard recently from anyone whose application for a carry permit was denied.
The NICS flags people who shouldn’t have access to firearms for reasons including criminal convictions, drug use, mental illness and domestic violence. The time period during which the background checks weren’t performed overlapped the deadly shootings of 49 victims at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016.
That bloodbath spurred a historic spike in applications for carry permits, according to the Tampa Bay Times, which obtained a copy of the June 2017 inspector general’s report through an open-records request. The investigation found that the Division of Licensees operations consultant manager, Lisa Wilde, “had a login issue with the NICS checks and never followed up to resolve the issue.”
A subordinate, Robin James, who “acted as Wilde’s back-up,” had similar problems, but Wilde “never asked James to check the NICS after the login issue,” the report says Wilde told investigators under oath. “Wilde characterized her failure as negligent, and agreed it could cause an embarrassment to the agency,” the report says.
A spokesman for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which oversees the Division of Licensing, said that that NICS was only consulted for “non-criminal disqualifying offenses” and that the department conducted criminal background checks using two other databases maintained by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI.
“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,” spokesman Aaron Keller told the Tampa Bay Times. Wilde also told the paper that she was a mail room worker before getting promoted to conduct background checks in 2013, adding: “I didn’t understand why I was put in charge of it.”