FBI Sued Over Background Check Error Related to Charleston Church Shooting

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

The families of nine victims killed in the June 2015 shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, are suing the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) over a background check error that supposedly allowed the alleged shooter to purchase his gun, according to a story in The Washington Post.

The Washington Post reports that multiple lawsuits filed claim that Dylann Roof, then 21, who is charged with killing nine African Americans at the Emanuel AME Church, should not have been able to purchase the weapon used in the crime after undergoing a mandatory FBI background check.

FBI Director James Comey said after the shooting that Roof should not have been able to purchase the gun he allegedly used because Roof’s admission of a drug crime should have triggered an automatic rejection if the information was properly recorded for a background check, The Washington Post reports.

The story ‘Families of Charleston shooting victims sue FBI over background check error’ is at https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/families-of-charleston-shooting-victims-sue-the-fbi-over-background-check-error/2016/07/01/8e8968f4-3fbd-11e6-80bc-d06711fd2125_story.html.

As reported earlier on the ESR News Blog, the FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) should have stopped Roof from purchasing the gun he allegedly used in the shootings, according to a statement by FBI Director Comey on July 10, 2015, regarding the gun purchase by Roof.

Comey stated information about gun buyers is submitted to NICS, which has three business days to perform a background check and clear or deny a gun purchase. If the clear or deny decision is not given in three business days, the Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) is allowed to proceed with the transaction.

However, while some retailers do not proceed until given a clear “yes,” others complete the transaction without a decision from NICS. Comey stated that Roof should not have been allowed to purchase the handgun in April 2015 that was allegedly used in the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.

Columbia, South Carolina police arrested Roof on a felony drug charge in March 2015 in the small part of the city that crosses from Richland County into Lexington County, Comey stated. As a result, Roof’s rap sheet listed the arresting agency as the Lexington County Sheriff’s Office and not the Columbia police.

Comey stated that the arrest report by the Columbia police in which Roof admitted he was in possession of drugs – which would have been enough to deny him permission to buy a gun – was not seen by the NICS background check examiner who was following protocols by focusing on Lexington County.

After three business days had passed, the background check was still listed as “status pending” so the gun dealer lawfully transferred the gun to Roof. “But the bottom line is clear: Dylann Roof should not have been able to legally buy that gun that day,” FBI Director Comey concluded.

The complete press release ‘Statement by FBI Director James Comey Regarding Dylann Roof Gun Purchase’ is available on the FBI website at https://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/statement-by-fbi-director-james-comey-regarding-dylann-roof-gun-purchase.

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