Fake News? Could Well Be.

| June 12, 2018 | 27 Comments

Recently, AW1Ed posted an article detailing problems with concealed carry permits in Florida. The problem stemmed from a Florida state employee losing access to a database that was required to be checked during the permit process and not performing the required checks. This allowed a number of potentially invalid concealed carry permits to be issued. When discovered, the suspect permits were re-checked; 291 were found to have been issued in error, and were subsequently revoked. The employee responsible for the fiasco was fired.

In a comment to AW1Ed’s article, a reader posted a comment alleging that the media had greatly exaggerated the issue. While the link posted by that commenter was to an article that I found poorly-written and somewhat confusing, I “pulled the thread” some more. And I think I’ve found, to a relatively high degree of certainty, “ground truth”.

The initial reports on the issue were somewhat confusing. Those initial reports referred to “tens of thousands” of permits issued over a period of around a year, and also indicated that 291 were ultimately revoked. But other than to say that 291 permits had been revoked, the initial reporting didn’t give much in the way of specific, pertinent details. And the reporting frankly implied the problem was both serious and widespread.

A subsequent follow-up article, quoting a spokesman for the pertinent Florida cabinet-level official whose department is responsible for issuing concealed carry permits in Florida, subsequently clarified the issue with those pertinent details. It turns out the issue was substantially less serious than originally reported by the media. But I doubt you’ll be seeing much in the way of follow-up from the mainstream media telling you that.

There’s also substantial circumstantial evidence that this could be a case of deliberately slanted news. Or, alternatively, that it’s a story so inaccurate and/or exaggerated that it indeed qualifies as having been created out of whole cloth, AKA “fake news”.

———-

So, what are the facts? Based on later clarification by a spokesman for Adam Putnam, the Florida Agriculture Commissioner, giving specific numbers and providing significant additional details here’s what appears to have happened:

1. The Florida concealed carry process requires that three databases be checked before a concealed carry permit is issued. Two of them are criminal history databases: Florida Crime Information Center database (FCIC) and the National Crime Information Center database (NCIC). The third is the Federal firearms disqualification database, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

2. During the period in question – February 2016 to March 2017 – 349,923 applications for a concealed carry permit were submitted in Florida. The two criminal databases, FCIC and NCIC, were checked in all cases.

3. In 365 cases, NCIS was not checked. A single Florida employee was responsible for performing these 365 checks, but failed to do so. Permits were issued in these cases which might have been invalid. In the other 349,558 cases, all 3 required databases were indeed checked.

4. When the matter was discovered, all 365 suspect cases were audited. A total of 291 of those cases were found on investigation to be problematic; the concealed carry permits for those 291 cases were revoked.

5. The employee who failed to perform their duties in the 365 cases in question no longer works there. Other reporting indicates they were fired, presumably for cause.

Bottom line: one Florida employee failed to do their job, apparently for a relatively short period of time.

Specifically, for some undefined but apparently fairly short period of time, a Florida employee lost access to NICS and failed to perform 365 checks in that database associated with the Florida concealed carry permit process – out of a total of 349,923 such checks performed during the overall period of interest. That was later discovered, and the issue was corrected by doing the required checks and revoking 291 permits that apparently were issued in error. The employee is now a former employee.

———-

So, what’s the problem with the initial reporting? I’ll tell you.

Other than the fact that the reporting was incomplete, it was also so slanted as to be effectively misleading – misleading to the degree that the author’s motive becomes suspect. Here’s how an AP article, apparently carried by (or based on an article in) the Tampa Bay Times, characterized the situation. In the quote below, I’ve redacted the name of the article’s author; follow the link if you want to see it.

Headline: Florida stopped doing gun permit checks for more than a year
By (name omitted), Associated Press
Posted: 8:31 PM, June 08, 2018
Updated: 10:18 AM, June 09, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For more than a year, Florida failed to do national background checks that could have disqualified people from gaining a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

The lapse, revealed in an internal report that was not widely known about until Friday, occurred during a time period when there was a significant surge in the number of people seeking permission to legally carry a concealed weapon. Florida does not allow the open carry of weapons, but more than 1.9 million have permits to carry guns and weapons in public if they are concealed.

The state ultimately revoked 291 permits and fired an employee blamed for the lapse after an inspector general’s report detailing the problem was sent in June 2017 to top officials in the department who oversee the program. The Tampa Bay Times was the first to publish information about the report, which pointed out that the state failed to check the National Instant Criminal Background Check System from February 2016 to March 2017.

The article continues for several more paragraphs. Nowhere does it indicate that the problem was in reality restricted to a failure to conduct 365 checks, nor that barely 1 in 1,000 concealed carry permits didn’t have one of three required checks.

Rather, the average reader of that article would conclude that the problem applied to a far larger number of applications – indeed, that the process of issuing concealed carry permits in Florida was broken entirely. That’s not the case at all. The facts indicate that one employee failed to perform required background checks in roughly 1 application out of a thousand.

———-

So, where’s the evidence that this might be polically-motivated and slanted (or outright fake) news? Well, check the update timestamp of the AP article – then check the time stamp of the clarification article released by the Florida Agricultural Commissioner’s spokesman. The AP article was last updated over 12 hours after the clarification – long after the information in the clarification was available. As of about an hour ago, the AP article still did not include those significant and relevant facts.

Further, Mr. Putnam is a candidate for Governor in Florida’s next gubernatorial election. He’s not liberal, and has made it a point to streamline Florida’s concealed carry permit process. Do you really think the media wants to see him elected, given the media’s documented leftward tilt since at least the Eisenhower administration? Might a sensationalist article leading people to believe, erroneously, that his office was issuing concealed carry permits without due diligence hurt his chances for election?

———-

I’m not prepared to state, flatly, that this was a political hit job and qualifies as fabricated news. Maybe it’s just abysmally sloppy reporting. But there’s an old saying: “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck . . . . “

Consider the facts and decide for yourself.

Category: Gun Grabbing Fascists, Guns, Media

Comments (27)

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  1. Docduracoat says:

    I plan to vote for Adam Putnam in the Republican primary
    His support for the second amendment is backed by his work speeding up issuing concealed carry permits
    He also issued a statement after the Parkland school shooting that he was for armed guards and hardening the schools and was against bump stock bans and raising the minimum age for gun purchases

  2. Ex-PH2 says:

    There is no way the media will NOT pounce on something like this so that they can turn it into a threat to everyone in the nation.

    Now, you know that, Hondo. Therefore, correcting an incorrectly written story won’t put an end to the stupidity, or the exaggeration, or the left’s desperate need to make a gigantic issue out of something like this. They have been looking for another “Watergate” episode since 1974, and we all know it.

    They need to be careful what they wish for. Let’s just hope that they dig a hole deep enough to fall in and bury themselves. They almost did it with this one. I’m sure there is more of it looming just over the horizon.

    On another note, you left links open in the part where you quoted the AP article.

    • A Proud Infidel®™ says:

      “There is no way the media will NOT pounce on something like this so that they can turn it into a threat to everyone in the nation.”

      You’re absolutely right, especially when it comes to the Associated Piss which is about as impartial as CNN or MSDNC!
      Some label it “Trump Derangement Syndrome” but I prefer to call it Trump Acceptance Resistance Disorder or TARD for short and those who let it run their lives IMHO are Trump Acceptance Resistance Disorder Operatives, or as I prefer to say, TARDOs. There are those even further affected by this disorder which makes them Really Exceptional Trump Acceptance Resistance Disorder Operatives, or RETARDOs for short.
      Now when it comes to where we see a mob of TARDOs screeching their hate and venom againt the POTUS, I see a gaggle of TARDOs who have been whipped into a frenzy by RETARDOs and are doing all they can to spread TARD everywhere they can and IMHO the ASSociated Piss is run by RETARDOS pushing TARDOs to spread TARD as far and wide as they can!

  3. 26Limabeans says:

    “Bottom line: one Florida employee failed to do their job, apparently for a relatively short period of time”

    So the 291 cases fall on one employee?
    Was it intentional? Sure sounds like pay to play without more specics on the one employee.

    • Hondo says:

      The fact that 291 out of the 365 applications processed without a NICS check ended up being revoked did make me go, “Hmm.” On the surface, it does make one suspicious.

      But whether it was due to “selective” failure or not can’t be determined without knowing far more than’s been made public. Hopefully FL LE is checking into that possibility.

      • Bill M says:

        How many checks did the employee do in total and how are the checks he/she/it failed to do clumped in time. Given the relatively small numbers in contrast to the overall number of checks during the period (one in a thousand), one would think the probability of “selective failure” is quite high. Seems something is out of kilter.

  4. STGSN says:

    I look at this situation and am a lot less likely to shout “political conspiracy” than I am to point out the ever-increasing trend of knee-jerk sensationalism that has run rampant from EVERY side of the media in recent years.
    They’re all so desperate for clicks, likes, and subscriptions that they’ll publish anything that gets people fired up.

    • Mason says:

      That’s been my take on reporting as well for a few years. Like how the media has been running with the readily disproven and absurd claim that we use 500 million plastic straws a day in the US. Which of course creates an environmental catastrophe the proportions of which makes Noah’s flood seem like a spring shower. All came from a 9 year old kid’s research paper. A freaking 9 year old was unchecked by the media who ran with a ridiculous, and obviously false, estimate.

  5. OWB says:

    Yes, it was purposefully slanted.

    Now, as several of us noted originally, 291 of 10s of thousands is not a particularly disturbing percentage of aps found to be disqualified. However, the new figure of 291 of 365 aps IS rather alarming. Why were these particular 365 not checked? Was it deliberate? Odd, at least. But we would need to know how many are normally disqualified to really know.

    • David says:

      Someone might look into the personal finances of that fired employee. Kind of funny that when rechecked, 75% had disqualifying issues. Wonder if “if you have problems I know this woman” might come up…

  6. Mason says:

    What I’m most confused about isn’t the incompetence of the government employee (all too common) nor the biased and incomplete if not deceitful reporting (also all too common). I’m more confused how the department of agriculture is the clearing house for gun permits! Shouldn’t that be under a department of public safety, the state police, or any number of similar agencies?

    • 26Limabeans says:

      Kinda like the Lottery Commission coming under the Department of Health and Human Services. Or state VA reps coming under the pervue of the Dept. of Public Safety. I became aware of that when I said something in private to the VA rep and a state trooper showed up at my door an hour later.
      State VA reps do not represent the VA.
      Your state may vary.

      • Jeff LPH 3, 63-66 says:

        26Limabeans; I remember the NY State Lottery was set up for the State/city schools. Next thing you know, everyone else is dipping into the School funds. Same thing was going on in that the concealed weapons license fees in Florida were going to other agencies hence the long wait for a permit which took as long as 4-6 months. I applied in Dec.of 2007 when I moved down here and it took around 4 months for me to get the permit. Eventualy the Dept. of Agriculture stopped the taking of their CCW permit funds from other agencies and hired more employees with the monies that were saved from the other agencies to handle the permits. My friend who was a snow bird at the time got his CCW in 3 weeks.

    • Hondo says:

      Probably the same reason that DoD operates Arlington National Cemetery and the Soldiers/Sailors Home Cemetery in DC (the VA runs all the other National Cemeteries): “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

      Inertia is an incredibly powerful force when it comes to organizations. (smile)

      That said, I can’t say as I see how it matters much who/what agency does the job. Florida’s a shall issue state, so absent a disqualifying issue granting the permit should be automatic. Processing the application seems to be a straightforward admin drill: check the application for showstoppers (such as Yes answers to disqualifying questions); check three databases (FCIC, NCIC, and NICS); verify payment was enclosed; check to see if a fingerprint card was enclosed and the application is otherwise complete (including signature and date); and if everything is “good to go”, issue a permit.

      Only way I can see that having LE issue the permits would be if they actually checked the fingerprints against national databases prior to issuing the permit. Even that could be handled by having an arrangement with Florida LE to handle that or by employing a relatively small number of fingerprint techs.

      • Mason says:

        I’m with you that it doesn’t matter which agency does it, one bureaucracy is no better than another. It just points to inefficiencies in government, lots of duplications. The redundancy department of redundancy in government is really just too redundant.

        My state has a state patrol, a statewide fish and wildlife police force, and a state bureau of investigation. All separate, with their own police academies, budgets and all that. It makes sense to everyone but the people that run the show that there is too much overlap.

  7. geetwillickers says:

    Just read through the “updated” article. If this one is less slanted than the original (which I have not read…) then the original must really be a doozy. First, the opening line:

    “For more than a year, Florida failed to do national background checks on people applying for concealed weapons permits.”

    This opening line is directly contradicted by this quote from Sec. Putnam later in the article:

    “To be clear, a criminal background investigation was completed on every single one of the 349,923 concealed weapon license applications submitted from February 2016 to March 2017.”

    Then a brief statement stating that the employee in question was supposed to REVIEW those that FAILED the checks. Read that again – the employee didn’t fail to do the checks – she failed to REVIEW THOSE THAT FAILED! And presumably, that allowed those 291 applications to erroneously go forward to approval and issuance. Not quite the public safety nightmare the story (even the updated one) would have you believe.

    Then – the money quote. To ensure that anyone still reading leaves with the proper impression of the situation, the reporter closes with the opinion of – guess who? Yep. A political rival of Sec. Putnam:

    https://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/s13

    “State Sen. Linda Stewart, who represents part of Orlando, issued a statement Friday night, calling for Putnam to resign.

    “I am extremely alarmed at the failure by Commissioner Putnam to disclose that his agency had failed to conduct these critical background checks – allowing possibly mentally disturbed individuals and others who should be disqualified, to be legally armed in Florida,” Stewart said. “I’m equally alarmed that officials from his agency tried to conceal the lax oversight by pushing legislation to cover up that failure, and downplayed the real reasons for the bill. He needs to resign.”

    Free campaigning for the State Senator? Is she considering a run for the Gov seat? Or just earning some goody points from her overseers by softening up a Gov candidate from the other party?

    That’s my analysis. And I didn’t even stay at a Holiday Inn last night.

  8. Perry Gaskill says:

    Dunno. In order to get a handle on the bias going on with the Associated Press story, it’s useful to read the original Tampa Bay Times piece:

    http://www.tampabay.com/florida-politics/buzz/2018/06/08/adam-putnams-office-stopped-concealed-weapons-background-checks-for-a-year-because-it-couldnt-log-in/

    At the risk of offending the tinfoil-hat wearers among the TAH crew, my own view is that the relatively minor problems with the Tampa story relate to sloppy copy desk editing. Not only did the reporter’s opinion slip in in a few places, but somebody also managed to slap on a shrieking headline. Part of this might have been due to wanting to punch up what amounted to, at base, a boring dog-ass story about a year-old Florida State IG report.

    Still, in the main, the Tampa reporter did a mostly good job with a lot of fine-grain detail including why the woman who was supposed to check NICS wasn’t able to log into the system.

    So here comes an AP writer who wants to fan the flames even more, and puts on the wire a rewrite picked up in Orlando. It might also be pointed out that the whole anti-second amendment hysteria is relevant in that city not only because of the fairly recent Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting near Miami, but also because of Orlando’s own prior Pulse nightclub incident.

    There also seems to be a problem with the AP rewrite in that the reporter apparently wanted the facts to fit a preexisting cognitive bias. Certain aspects of the Tampa piece seemed to be interpreted in a certain way.

    • Hondo says:

      Perry: I understand that you’re a former journalist and feel compelled to defend your current/former profession. But c’mon. The Tampa Bay Times you cite isn’t much better than the AP article.

      Here’s a quote from the TB Times article you cited; I’ve added emphasis.

      A previously unreported Office of Inspector General investigation found that in February 2016 the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services stopped using the results from an FBI crime database called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System that ensures applicants who want to carry a gun do not have a disqualifying history in other states.

      The employee in charge of the background checks could not log into the system, the investigator learned. 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.

      Take a look at the emphasized parts. The TB Times article is just as misleading, incomplete, and slanted as the one from the AP. It contains effectively the same errors of fact as the AP article. The emphasized parts are demonstrably false.

      Specifically, the TB Times article implies (or if you prefer, states outright) that NCIS wasn’t “used for over a year”. It repeats that claim later in the article. That is false. Later information from Putnam’s office – available the same day the TB Times article was published – indicates that NCIS checks were performed on 349,558 out of 349,923 concealed carry applications. That would be impossible if no one in that agency could access NICS.

      The TB Times article also seriously misrepresents the clarification provided by Putnam’s office later the same day that the TB Times was published. It omits any mention of the fact that all but 365 out of the 349,923 concealed weapons permit applications that had been processed during the period in question in fact included NICS checks. Rather, it states that Putnam’s response was to review 365 applications and revoke 291 permits – thus implying that’s the only action taken. Omitting a material fact of that magnitude is at best a huge error; if deliberate, it’s evidence that the TB Times article was in fact a political “hit piece” where facts were deemed secondary to “the cause”.

      The TB Times article also refers to the individual who failed to perform their duties as “The employee in charge of the background checks”. Using the term “the” in this context, without further clarification, implies there was a single such individual in the department responsible for performing NICS checks. A single such individual doing that number of checks in a year appears to be implausible on its face.

      A standard work-year is 2087 hours (the extra 7 hours accounts for the fact that a year is not exactly 52 weeks and also accounts for the extra day in leap years). A single employee can be expected to be at work on at most 2087 – vacation time – holiday time. Assuming 2 weeks vacation and 10 paid holidays, excluding overtime that means a given employee would be expected to be at work at most 1927 hours. And government agencies don’t generally make workload plans based on using overtime.

      1927 hours is equal to 6,937,200 seconds. That means a single employee would have to process 3+ such NICS checks each minute of every working day n order to process 349,923 checks in a year – or over 1,500 each and every day that they’re at work. And that’s with zero stretch/smoke breaks, no bathroom breaks, no meetings, no required training, no admin duties (like time and attendance reporting), and no “hey, this just came up – drop what you’re doing and handle this instead” stuff.

      Ain’t gonna happen, amigo. People who were assigned that kind of work and told they had to work at that pace almost certainly would walk out before they’d finished their first week on the job. It’s simply not reasonable.

      Finally, the headline for the TB Times article isn’t much better than the AP Article headline: “Adam Putnam’s office stopped reviewing concealed weapons background checks for a year because it couldn’t log in”. Again, patently false. Per the clarification later the same day from Putnam’s spokesman, only 365 applications were processed without an NICS check. The other 349,558 applications processed during the period in question in fact had the required NICS check.

      The TB Times article is better than the AP article, but only marginally (it includes a few specifics, but not all the pertinent ones, and doesn’t give one of Putnam’s political foes a free chance to campaign against him). Both articles are factually incomplete, lead the reader to invalid conclusions (perhaps deliberately), and are so far off the mark that both appear to be possible examples of a political agenda taking precedence over facts – AKA “fake news”.

      • Mustang Major says:

        The Tampabay Times is owned by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. This is a journalism school in St. Petersburg. You can imagine the fair and balanced instruction taught at the school.

        The primary role of the paper is promoting the leftist agenda through selective reporting. Real news coverage is skimpy and is typically short on facts. An article slamming a Republican will go on and on. You know how that works.

        In the case of the CCW screwup, the Commisonner of Agiculture is ultimately responsible for CCW permitting, and is a Republican running for governor. Hence, he gets slammed. Had it been a Democrat in charge of CCW permitting, the article would have focused on the Republican governor not providing the funds for adequate equipment for CCW background states.

        Total rag….

      • Perry Gaskill says:

        Hondo, I understand what you’re saying, and don’t disagree on the main facts. Where we seem to diverge is on whether or not the Tampa Bay Times and the Associated Press set out, via a conspiracy or otherwise, to intentionally sandbag the Putnam campaign or whatever. My own opinion is that evidence for such an allegation is thin, and it might not be a good idea to chalk up to conspiracy that which can be better explained by blundering incompetence.

        Is there bias in the original TBT story? You bet, but it’s the kind of stuff that should have routinely been eliminated by a halfway decent copy desk. There was a time when a long line of cub reporters hoping for a byline were regularly told by generations of older and wiser editors that having an opinion did not fall into the reporter’s job description. Why that is now considered old fashioned is because a faction of current j-school academics consider objectivity to be bad form. It’s a new steaming pile.

        I’m also having a hard time attaching huge and darkly sinister implications to a story fundamentally about another bureaucratic fumble. Realistically, there were 350,000 CCW applications processed. Of those, fewer than 300 had a problem pop up after correcting for a skipped database check. Personally, and in the absence of any additional facts, I have a hard time believing the fate of the republic hinges on this stuff. Given the numbers involved, a typical reader probably considers it water off a duck. That’s assuming the same reader can manage to make it through the quagmire of the writing– which should be yet another clue the writer might not know what he’s talking about.

        Something else to consider, more evidence of the sloppy journalism going on, is that the TBT piece buried the lede for what could have been a better story. The woman fired for blowing off the background checks not only evidently did so because of a gruesome workload in general, but also because the FBI has apparently been making database access difficult for civilian employees not directly involved in law enforcement.

        • 11B-Mailclerk says:

          There are so many “just happens” and “coincidences” that it defuse reason to call this an innocent error.

          I lived in that state for over 20 years. I am intimately familiar with the biases of what passes for journalism there.

          The evidence speaks for itself. The bias is clearly evident.

          Note that systematic bias in no way requires conspiracy. It just requires a high preponderance of biased folks that lean in a common direction – Left.

          The hit-work is obvious in the cited cases.

        • Hondo says:

          Perry: the “big story” here is that a media organization – and the mainstream media in general – is now so biased (unconsciously or not) that it sees itself as “kingmakers” instead of those who report the facts to the public. That’s been the case for 60+ years now.

          The fact that LE – and every other bureaucratic entity in existence – jealously guards what it sees as its prerogatives and “fiefdoms” against encroachment is old news. Hell, it’s news so old that it was probably noted in Thomas Paine’s Common Sense or Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac. (smile)

          One example is the Federal law allowing retired LE to carry concealed nationwide. I’m guessing far fewer LE organizations would be silent on the issue of concealed carry (or, as many big-city PD leadership seems to be, opposed to it) if they themselves had to go through the same permitting process to carry off-duty as anyone else.

          Yeah, cops make enemies. But so do businessmen, building contractors, real estate agents, and pizza delivery drivers – and journalists, for that matter.

          But I guess when it comes to concealed carry, “some animals are more equal than others”.

          • OWB says:

            Not quite sure what to do with the trend toward fewer and fewer companies controlling more and more news outlets. In reality it may not matter at all – the bias has existed for a very long while, as you have stated. On the other hand, it would seem that we would all be better served with more independent ownership of media. But looking at our history, haven’t there always been a few who controlled most of the news reporting? I dunno. The names may change, but I’m not convinced that much has actually changed. Still, something just doesn’t feel right about the direction we are going especially when you consider the almost robotic mindset of those reporting “the news” with the corporate control aspect. Maybe the profit motive does offset the bias.

  9. Jimmy B says:

    I watched a youtube video last night about this and the guy had a great point. It was – so we had a lapse in CCW checks and what happened? NOTHING! Did these couple hundred that got a CCW go out and rob banks and shoot up liquor stores? NO, it ought to show that this whole regulatory process only affects the law abiding in the first place and as such needs to go away.

  10. ArmyATC says:

    Holy shit!! That article could be a lesson on how to do a political hatchet job on a politician you don’t like or agree with. The bias almost literally oozes off the article. Fineout couldn’t make his bias and bigotry any clearer.

  11. AW1Ed says:

    Quite the follow-up, Hondo. Impressive, and thanks.

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