SUN CITY CENTER (FOX 13) - Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture, and a candidate for Florida governor, Adam Putnam spoke to reporters Saturday about a recent report his office did not follow proper procedures when issuing concealed carry permits for about 13 months.
Putnam said headlines implying background checks were not run by the state are categorically false.
The commissioner explained the process by which checks are done on applicants who apply for concealed carry permits.
He said multiple entities, including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, provide background check information to his office, which then reviews the information and decides whether to approve or deny a particular applicant.
A report from the Florida Inspector General shows an employee in Putnam's office did not pull in the background checks that were run by FDLE between roughly February 2016 and March 2017. Therefore, the background check information was not considered in the permit issuing process during that time.
Putnam said there were about 350,000 applicants during that time, all of which were initially approved for concealed carry permits. When the actions of what Putnam called the "negligent and deceptive employee" were discovered, the previously-run background checks for all 350,000 applicants were pulled and reviewed.
Of those, Putnam's office conducted a further review on 365 applicants and then revoked 291 of their concealed carry permits.
"I called for this investigation," Putnam said Saturday. "This is a very serious issue. We took immediate action and implemented the inspector general investigation. I didn't wait on a news story to take action."
"The headlines and the stories that say there were no background checks for a year [are] inaccurate and misleading," Putnam said.
The commissioner pointed out, having a concealed carry permit in the state of Florida does not mean an individual can buy a gun. Businesses that sell firearms run their own background checks. Had one of the 365 individuals - whose background check would have initially been flagged by Putnam's office - tried to purchase a firearm, the gun seller would have denied them the purchase.
Watch: Adam Putnam answers reporters' questions about the investigation and reports.
Florida’s Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz today told the Tampa Bay Times, "I was discouraged that Adam Putnam chose to throw his employees under the bus rather than taking some ownership over the fact that there wasn't adequate oversight and adequate redundancy over something that is so important to public safety," he said.
The report from 2017 quotes the employee saying, "I dropped the ball. I know I did that. I should have been doing it and I didn't," she said. "I neglected to do it for almost a year."