Putnam Draws Fire After Background Checks Report

June 9, 2018

Democrats and gun-control advocates took aim Friday at Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam after the Tampa Bay Times reported that a former employee of Putnam’s agency failed for more than a year to conduct national background checks on applications for concealed weapons licenses.

An Office of Inspector General report from June 2017 — obtained by the Times in a public records request — said that between February 2016 and March 2017, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services didn’t access an FBI crime database called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System because an employee was unable to log into the system.

Putnam’s office told the Times that the employee was “immediately terminated” after another employee discovered the situation and that every application potentially impacted was “thoroughly reviewed.”

In a statement Friday night, Putnam, who is running for governor, said “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,” Putnam said in the statement. “The former employee was both deceitful and negligent, and we immediately launched an investigation and implemented safeguards to ensure this never happens again.”

As of May 31, there were more than 1.9 million concealed-weapons licenses issued by the state.

The Times noted 245,000 applications were made in 2016 and 275,000 were made in 2017.

The newspaper report touched off a political outcry Friday from Democrats. The governor’s race has included heavy debate about gun issues, particularly after the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County.

The Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, a national LGBTQ political organization focused on gun violence, expressed concern that while the background checks weren’t made, the state may have issued concealed-weapons licenses “to drug addicts, people with mental illness, and others who should be barred from owning a gun.”

“It’s inconceivable Putnam’s office could be so negligent, especially because the Pulse massacre in Orlando occurred during the same timeframe,” Jason Lindsay, executive director of the Pride Fund, said in a statement.

A gunman killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016.

Democratic gubernatorial candidates rushed Friday to condemn Putnam, with Chris King and Jeff Greene, for example, calling for the agriculture commissioner to resign.

Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham urged Putnam to “drop out now” from the contest.

Meanwhile, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, another Democrat in the governor’s race, labeled the report a sign of “dangerous incompetence” by Putnam. And Philip Levine, a former Miami Beach mayor, called for an investigation and said Putnam has forfeited “any moral right to lead.”

But Marion Hammer, the National Rifle Association’s longtime lobbyist in Florida, pointed to political motivations in the outcry from Democrats.

“Democrats are having political seizures for the media again,” Hammer said in an email to The News Service of Florida.

Patricia Brigham, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, however, called the lack of background checks an “example of gross neglect” and cited part of the Times story that said the now-fired employee had been promoted from the mailroom to be in charge of database checks.

“Why only one mailroom employee would be left to handle a job that is critical to the safety of all citizens is jaw-dropping,” said Brigham, whose group backs gun-control measures.

— by Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida with contribution from senior NSF  writer Dara Kam


12 Responses to “Putnam Draws Fire After Background Checks Report”

  1. John on June 13th, 2018 7:45 am

    If a person is considered too dangerous to be allowed to purchase a firearm, then why are they out walking around among us?

    End background checks, increase execution for murderers and rapists violent criminals.

  2. useyourmind on June 11th, 2018 10:54 am

    This is just more political drama by the dems. Putnam fixed the mistake, it was a bad employee, the guy was terminated. Unlike dem heroes who give their bad employees promotions and lavish trips abroad and deny, deny, deny. Keep it up, though. People are waking up to the nonsense and the DNC’s histrionics will bury it into the lockers of history.

  3. Chelleepea on June 9th, 2018 6:17 pm

    The issue is Mr Putnam is running for office and he is responsible for what went on at the department. A year without background checks is a pretty big deal whether you like background checks or not it’s the current law. That means that there were no oversight. Yes eventually the problem was fixed but a year is too long. Since most of us don’t know Mr. Putnam personally, what happened and didn’t happened at the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is part of his resume.

  4. Anne on June 9th, 2018 2:25 pm

    Uh, good friends who worked in Tallahassee at Fl Dept of Agriculture said that from day one in the job as Agriculture Commissioner that Putnam was making it very clear his goal was to become Governor of Fla and he expected every employee to be with him on that path.
    Not a real fan of his but the fact that there was Only ONE employee doing Federal Gun Checks (?) that whole thing seems Crazy with the number of Concealed Weapon Licenses that come thru the office.
    If anything positive comes of this it should be that the individual County Tax Collector offices be authorized to do the background checks and issue the Concealed Weapon Licenses. Would put accountability on the County and relieve the huge number of requests at the state level. Once a County has approved or rejected an individual that information would become part of the State/Federal database.

  5. Henry Coe on June 9th, 2018 2:14 pm

    Let that failure go on for a year from his lack of oversight, yes that very incompetent. It would be interesting to hear more about the employee who did his/her job in whistle blowing on the slacker.

  6. G on June 9th, 2018 10:50 am

    He who has not sinned, cast the first stone. Liberal Dem’s are always the first to throw stones and the last to take responsibility for their actions. Mr. Putnam may not be qualified for the office he seeks, but neither are most of the candidates, especially the ones that don’t take responsibility for their actions. It would be nice to see everyday people have a reunion with common sense and allow it to dictate their decision making, instead of political motivation.

  7. A. Alex on June 9th, 2018 10:22 am

    Explain to me what Putnam did wrong , he corrected the mistake. Of the EMPLOYEE

  8. Grand Locust on June 9th, 2018 10:15 am

    The buck stops on the desk of the department head. Where were the protocols to double check every application with a second review of the FBI data. Based on the high number of people upon review who lost their conceal and carry, one has to question if there was not a financial motive to not conduct those background checks. This does not seem like an innocent mistake, and not having proper procedures in the office for second review is unbelievable in 2018.

  9. Willie Billups on June 9th, 2018 9:39 am

    I’m voting for Putnam. He is perfectly qualified. The democrats DONT want him in office so that is exactly who I will vote for! I am 45 years old and a BLACK man. I also voted for Trump. What the Democrat party doesn’t understand is that they are losing votes because everyone can see right through their nonsense and taking the wrong side on many issues. They look like bafoons on TV (CNN. MSNBC, ABC). They have distanced themselves so far from the working man it’s obvious. I used to be a blue dog democrat but have realized they are a big joke.

  10. Michelle Henderson on June 9th, 2018 9:31 am

    This is just a political game by Democrats. You see how Brigham knows the employee was promoted and still refers to the employee as a “mailroom” employee. Just by her referencing the employee to their prior job title knowing the employee got promoted shows that she ignores facts and just wants to blow a small situation to something larger only because he is running for office.

    If he wasn’t running for office this would be a non issue LOL

  11. Preston Hardy on June 9th, 2018 8:38 am

    Adam Putnam is totally unqualified for the office he seeks, but an (R) beside his name might get him elected.

  12. Wilykyote on June 9th, 2018 7:05 am

    Doesn’t matter the political party……doing the job seems
    Elusive in Government…..big title,big pay,big pension and
    get elected then re-elected is seemingly their only goal. Then
    just pose & grin for 25 years .

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