Tallahassee, FL –-(Ammoland.com)- Earlier this month AmmoLand brought its reader a story of an alleged illegal gun list compiled by the Charlotte County Sheriff's Department using the FINDER system in Florida.
Pawnbrokers are required to enter information on firearms transactions into the FINDER system. The system transmits the serial number of the firearm along with the make and model to the local sheriffs' department to make sure that the person pawning the gun, did not steal it. A bug in the system also transmitted the names and addresses of the transfers to local law enforcement. The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Department used the information to create a list of gun owners.
In Florida, it is a felony for law enforcement agencies to keep a list of gun owners under Florida Statute 790.335. The Charlotte County State's Attorney's Office determined that the Charlotte County Sheriff's Department did not violate any laws in compiling the list. After the results of the investigation, Florida Carry asked the Attorney General's Office of the state to carry out an independent investigation.
AmmoLand has discovered with the help of reporter Andrew Sheets that abuse of the FINDER system appears to extend past Charlotte County into surrounding jurisdictions. It isn’t clear how far the abuses extend across the state.
Emails obtained by Mr. Sheets and AmmoLand shows that the Charlotte County Sheriff's Department shared their list with other departments. One of the other law enforcement agencies that the Sheriff shared their list with is the North Port Police department.
The Sarasota Sheriff's Office has also been compiling a list using the FINDER system. More disturbing is that the Sheriff provided an unredacted list of pawn transactions via email to Mr. Sheets. The file contains not only information about the firearm, but also the names of the person pawning the gun, putting them at risk of robbery and violating their privacy rights.
AmmoLand received a tip that the FINDER system was never supposed to release the gun owner's personal information to law enforcement organizations. We spoke to a support team member off the record, and they told AmmoLand that the system has been fixed and no longer transmits anything outside the serial number and make and model of the firearm.
It seems like there was a systemic failure in the FINDER system. The pawn reporting system was not in compliance with Florida law. It looks like the IT company that maintains the system has now fixed the database only to transmit the correct data. It also appears the data transmitted is now in compliance with current Florida law.
AmmoLand has made multiple attempts to contact anyone at Law Enforcement Technology & Research (LETTR) to get a comment on the abuse of the FINDER system. The non-profit corporation has decided not to respond to any contact by AmmoLand. It is not known when LETTR fixed the pawn system, or when they discovered that the database was out of compliance with Florida law.
Initially, last May, Charles County State's Attorney's Office investigated the claims of abuse of the FINDER system. The office released their findings, stating that there was not an abuse of the pawn database and that the Charlotte Sheriff's Department did everything legally.
Florida Carry was shocked by Charles County State's Attorney's determination. AmmoLand then reached out to ASA Anthony Kunasek to get clarification as to why he and the office didn't believe that there was a violation in the law. To us and many gun-rights advocates the abuse of the system was cut and dry.
Because of the hard work of Florida Carry, and the pressure from the public, State Attorney Amira Fox's office has now opened an investigation into the origin and background of the failure of the FINDER system. Florida Carry says that they look forward to the results of her investigation.
AmmoLand will track the developments in the investigation and inform readers of the outcome.
About John Crump
John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. He is the former CEO of Veritas Firearms, LLC and is the co-host of The Patriot News Podcast which can be found at www.blogtalkradio.com/patriotnews. John has written extensively on the patriot movement including 3%'ers, Oath Keepers, and Militias. In addition to the Patriot movement, John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and is currently working on a book on leftist deplatforming methods and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, on Facebook at realjohncrump, or at www.crumpy.com.