Media misfires: Firearm background checks never stopped in Florida

DCNFMolly Prince, DCNF

The media previously reported that Florida stopped conducting national background checks on concealed carry weapons permits for over a year due to administrative issues logging into the system, however, the problem occurred not with failing to run background checks on applications, but rather failing to follow-up on some flagged applicants.

2017 report found that from February 2016 until March 2017 Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services did not review criminal background checks on 365 applicants that were flagged by the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) because the employee responsible for accessing the NICS system was unable to log on to the database. The Tampa Bay Times first reported on the investigation on Thursday.

In order to receive a concealed carry permit, all applicants are subject to three different background checks: the aforementioned NICS check, a national name-based system, as well as state and national fingerprint-based systems, the Florida Criminal Information Computer system (FCIC) and the National Criminal Information system (NCIC).

“Background checks through three different databases never stopped,” Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said at a news conference on Saturday. “A criminal background investigation was completed on every single one of the 349,923 concealed weapon license applications that were submitted between February of 2016 and March of 2017.”

Of the almost 350,000 applications, 365 were flagged for containing non-criminal disqualifying information based on the NICS background check. These applications should have been reviewed prior to the issuance of concealed carry weapons permits but were not. When the error was revealed, the Department ran new background checks on all 365 applicants. Of these, 291 still had disqualifiers and those permits were immediately revoked.

None of the individuals who wrongly received their permits, despite the lapse, would have been able purchase a firearm.

“The same NICS database that produced the flag of disqualifying information that [the employee] didn’t follow up on would have also prevented their point of sale purchase of a firearm,” Putnam said. A concealed carry permit holder is not exempt from the required background checks, the permit only exempts the holder from the waiting period.

The employee responsible for the mishap was found negligent for knowingly failing to perform essential job duties and no longer works with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

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