I have to hand it to South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, distracting the nation’s attention with the bright shiny object of the Confederate flag after the massacre of nine African-Americans in an historic African-American church by the hand of a young white supremacist was a masterful political stroke. It worked like a charm for a good month.
But now that South Carolina has taken down the symbol of treason and racial oppression from its state capitol, End of an era as South Carolina takes down Confederate flag, maybe we can get back to talking about the real issue in the Charleston massacre: not the flag in Dylann Roof’s hand, but the gun in his other hand. The flag didn’t kill nine people, the gun did.
Today we learn that Dylann Roof was arrested in February on a felony narcotics charge and should not have been able to purchase the gun he used to kill nine innocent victims. FBI: Background check failure let Roof buy gun:
Dylann Roof, who is accused of killing nine people at a church in South Carolina three weeks ago, was only able to purchase the gun used in the attack because of breakdowns in the FBI’s background-check system, FBI Director James B. Comey said Friday.
Comey said that Roof should have been prevented from buying the .45-caliber weapon used in a shooting that authorities have said was motivated by Roof’s racist views.
“This case rips all of our hearts out, but the thought that an error on our part is connected to a gun this person used to slaughter these people is very painful to us,” said Comey.
The lapse was the result of errors not only by the FBI but by the Lexington County prosecutors’ office, and Comey said he has ordered a review of procedures that led to the failure. The errors came to light as investigators examined a gun purchase Roof made two months before the shooting in Charleston.
Roof had been arrested for possession of narcotics in February, a felony charge that alone did not disqualify him from buying a gun. But Comey said that Roof’s subsequent admission of the drug crime would have triggered an automatic rejection of his gun purchase if the information had been properly recorded in background-check databases.
Instead, Comey said the data was not properly entered in the bureau’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), and that an FBI examiner assigned to review Roof’s purchase never saw his admission to the narcotics charge.
Comey’s disclosure to reporters who were summoned to FBI headquarters on Friday amounted to a heartbreaking admission by the FBI director that the attack on members of a Bible study group might have been averted.
The failure to block Roof’s purchase is likely to renew scrutiny of a troubled federal background-check system that also allowed seemingly troubled young men to acquire firearms in previous shootings, including a 2011 attack in Tucson that wounded then-congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).
Or not . . . Let’s hear from NRA toady, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman:
“It’s disastrous that this bureaucratic mistake prevented existing laws from working and blocking an illegal gun sale,” he said in a statement. “The facts undercut attempts to use the tragedy to enact unnecessary gun laws. The American people, and especially the victims’ families, deserve better.”
“Look over there — squirrel!” Nice try, asshole. The American people, and especially the victims’ families, certainly do deserve better than Sen. Chuck Grassley and his ilk.
Comey said Roof’s transaction began when he went to a gun store in West Columbia, S.C., on April 11. The dealer submitted his biographical information to NICS, which handles background checks for gun purchases for about 30 states, including South Carolina.
Under the law, the FBI has three business days to deny or approve a purchase. But if a decision is not made during that time frame, the law permits the dealer to complete the sale.
On April 13, a veteran FBI examiner who routinely handled 15 or more cases per day pulled up Roof’s request. Checking his criminal record, she saw the narcotics arrest by the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department. She faxed a request for information to the sheriff’s office and county prosecutor. But officials at the sheriff’s office told her they were not handling the case and referred her to the Columbia Police Department.
Her effort, however, was tripped up by a geographic irregularity.
Only a small part of the city of Columbia is located in Lexington County, with most in neighboring Richland County. The FBI’s system did not account for that jurisdictional split, and the examiner unwittingly contacted only the West Columbia Police Department, which reported no record of Roof’s arrest.
“It’s not clear why that happened,” Comey said of the gap in the FBI’s database, “but it made a big difference.”
Had the examiner been able to see the Columbia police report that Roof had admitted to possession of a drug, or had prosecutors told her of its existence, “that transaction would have been denied,” Comey said.
On April 16, after the three-day waiting period had lapsed with no adverse ruling from the FBI, Roof got his gun — a .45-caliber Glock pistol. There is no requirement for the dealer to notify the bureau when it has sold a gun, bureau officials said.
This new reporting would appear to contradict earlier reports that Roof received a .45-caliber pistol from his father in April for his birthday. The legal loophole that allowed Dylann Roof to get a gun (June 18, 2015):
South Carolina is one of 40 states that do not require background checks for private gun transactions, like the one that allegedly took place between Roof and his father. Gun control activists call this the “private sale” loophole.
It’s illegal to give guns to felons or people with felony indictments — but that’s only if you know about their criminal records. In South Carolina, you don’t have to ask, so private citizens can more or less freely exchange guns.
If prosecutors can show that the father knew about Roof’s indictment but gave him the gun anyway, Roof’s father could face up to 10 years in prison.
* * *
It’s unclear, of course, if the pistol Roof received for his birthday is the same semiautomatic handgun that police say was used in the Charleston church shooting. If Roof owned guns he acquired prior to his felony charge, he would have been allowed to hang onto them.
* * *
The National Rifle Association recently changed its mind on universal background checks, coming out against them. “Background checks will never be ‘universal’ because criminals will never submit to them,” NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said in 2013.
Yet according to a Johns Hopkins poll released that same year, 74 percent of NRA members and 89 percent of Americans support the policy.
Everyone knows that NRA members do not speak for the NRA, highly paid lobbyists for the merchants of death do.