Gov. Rick Scott is reviewing a request to launch an independent investigation into the state’s handling of concealed-weapon permits, amid mounting pressure for the process to be checked. Republican Adam Putnam’s campaign for governor has been roiled by revelations that the agency he leads failed to perform complete background checks on hundreds of applications for concealed-weapons permits, along with a whistleblower’s claims that she had a quota to process 75 applications a day and was told by her bosses she “works for the NRA” when she brought problems to their attention.
Putnam, the elected head of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said he ordered internal reviews and corrected those issues when they came to his attention.
Democratic state Sen. Linda Stewart is asking Scott, a Republican, to order another review by the state’s chief inspector general. She calls Putnam’s internal investigation “flawed” and says it included “mischaracterizations” and “omissions.”
McKinley Lewis, a Scott spokesman, said the request is being reviewed, but he did not have a time-frame on how long the review could take.
The Florida League of Women Voters and the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence also wants further investigation, requesting Attorney General Pam Bondi to launch a review. In a letter, Bondi wrote that her office does not have the authority to initiate such an investigation. She referred the request to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement or the Office of Inspector General.
Asked whether Putnam would support another review, campaign spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice defended the veracity of the internal reviews and criticized Democrats for “engaging in partisan politics.”
The Agriculture Department’s inspector general reviewed at least two issues with concealed-weapon permits, according to reports released through public records requests.
A 2012 internal review found 48 employees in Putnam’s department made mistakes in issuing permits for concealed weapons, security guards and other similar licenses, including instances of employees not even looking at applications, The Associated Press reported.
An employee’s failure to conduct complete background checks resulted in 291 people getting a license to carry in 2016 and 2017 who should have been denied, according to a review by the department’s inspector general. The agency revoked those permits once the lapse was discovered.
Putnam has said the lapses did not jeopardize public safety because permit holders would need to pass another background check when they purchase a firearm.
Xenia Bailey, a former chief of the Bureau of License Issuance, sued the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in 2013, claiming “gross misconduct” in the department’s handling of gun permits, according to court records.
The agency settled the lawsuit in 2016 for $30,000, while not admitting to any of the accusations brought by Bailey. Putnam — who has been Agriculture Commissioner since January 2011 — declared his bid for governor in May 2017. He faces U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in the Republican primary on Aug. 28.