The Slatest

Background Check System Failed to Flag Charleston Shooter’s Drug Case

The Rev. Clementa Pickney’s wife Jennifer and daughters Eliana and Malana at his funeral June 26.

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty

It’s been reported that accused Charleston shooter Dylann Roof purchased the .45-caliber handgun used in the shooting at a store near the city of Columbia on April 11. It’s also been known that Roof was facing felony drug charges at the time of the purchase. On Friday the FBI said its national background check should have prevented Roof from buying a gun because the police report in the earlier case indicated Roof had admitted possessing illegal drugs. FBI Director James Comey “indicated that the data was not properly entered in federal criminal justice computer systems administered through the bureau’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System,” the Washington Post reports.


“This case rips all of our hearts out … 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,” Comey said.


The Los Angeles Times has more detail:

[Comey] said Roof went to a West Columbia, S.C., gun shop on April 11 to buy the gun. Under federal law, the FBI had three days to block the purchase.

But an FBI examiner in West Virginia failed to get notice of a March drug arrest of Roof that would have likely resulted in Roof being disqualified from purchasing the weapon.

On April 16, the gun dealer sold the weapon to Roof, who used it in the June 17 attack.

The New York Times notes that the national background check system also failed in the case of the gunman who killed 33 people at Virginia Tech in 2007; that individual “should not have been able to buy a gun because a court had previously declared him to be a danger to himself.”

Click here for more of Slate’s coverage of the Charleston shooting.