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Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) background check system should have stopped the alleged killer of nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina from purchasing the gun he allegedly used in the shootings, according to a statement by FBI Director James Comey.

Comey stated that the FBI administers part of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Biographical information about potential 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, Comey stated. While some retailers do not proceed until given a clear “yes,” others complete the transaction without a decision from NICS.

Comey stated that the alleged South Carolina church shooter, Dylann Roof, should not have been allowed to purchase the handgun in April 2015 allegedly used in the crime. A check of Roof’s criminal history revealed an arrest on a felony drug charge in South Carolina in March 2015.

Columbia, South Carolina police arrested Roof on drug charges in the small part of the city that crosses from Richland County into Lexington County, Comey stated. So 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 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,” the FBI Director concluded.

The entire press release ‘Statement by FBI Director James Comey Regarding Dylann Roof Gun Purchase’ is available on the FBI website at

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