A Florida state employee failed to review federal background check profiles on "tens of thousands" of applications for concealed weapons permits over the course of more than a year because he couldn't remember his login information for the National Instant Criminal Background Check system, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
According to an inspector general's report, a single employee in the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services simply stopped looking at federal background check information when he forgot how to access the system, which alerts authorities if a concealed carry applicant has disqualifying non-criminal issues, like a history of drug abuse treatment, or a history of inpatient treatment for mental illness.
"The problem went unresolved until discovered by another worker in March 2017 — meaning that for more than a year applications got approved without the required background check," the Times reports.
That human error affected "tens of thousands" of concealed carry applicants and coincided with a flood of permit requests. In 2016 alone, the state of Florida had 275,000 applications. It is not known whether the human error allowed certain mass shooters — including the Pulse nightclub shooter — to obtain a permit.
The individual applicants, however, would not have been allowed to buy a gun. Gun purchase checks were completed as required. Just carry checks were affected.
The Tampa Bay Times — and the inspector general — is quick to point out that there are two other backup background check systems that should alert states to potential problems, and that those two systems were frequently used. But the NICB system is the single most comprehensive database of background check information, and if an employee fails to do due diligence using that system, they could be awarding concealed carry permits to dangerous individuals.
The office says that as soon as they discovered the problem, they re-ran background checks using the NICB system. The employee was terminated immediately.
The NRA-ILA also weighed in on the issue, pointing out that a "license to carry does not exempt a person from the background check required when you purchase a firearm. The license ONLY exempts a license holder from the 3-day waiting period."
"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," a statement from the Florida Department of Agriculture read. "The former employee was both deceitful and negligent, and we immediately launched an investigation and implemented safeguards to ensure this never happens again."
The incident, however, drives home the point that government agencies must follow the laws on the books — and correctly — before legislatures, including Congress, consider more stringent gun control measures.