How did Dylann Roof pass a criminal background check to buy a gun? Initial reports suggested that Roof’s purchase of the gun he used to murder nine people at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, was legal. But now FBI Director James Comey says that’s wrong: Roof should have been prevented from buying the .45 caliber pistol, but something went awry during the background-check process.
Federal laws prevent certain people from purchasing guns, including those facing charges that might result in a prison term of at least a year. Roof was charged earlier this year for the possession of a drug called Suboxone, a misdemeanor offense that did not meet that threshold, and so would not have barred him from making the purchase. But the rules also bar anyone “who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance” from buying a gun. When he was arrested on March 1 for possession, Roof told investigators that he had used the drug, which should automatically have disqualified him. Somehow, that crucial fact never made it into the background-check database.
Comey disclosed the error to reporters on Friday at FBI headquarters. “Comey indicated that the data was not properly entered in federal criminal justice computer systems, or had been mishandled by an analyst with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System,” The Washington Post reported. He said, “this rips all of our hearts out” and “we are all sick this happened,” according to CNN.