Dylann Roof, who is accused of killing nine people at a South Carolina church, was able to purchase his gun because of breakdowns in the FBI's background-check system, says FBI Director James Comey, the Washington Post reports. Comey said 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. The political repercussions of the June 17 massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church led South Carolina to remove the Confederate flag from its statehouse grounds Friday. “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. 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 was arrested in February for possession of narcotics in February. 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, the data was not properly entered in the bureau's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), and an FBI examiner assigned to review Roof's purchase never saw his admission to the narcotics charge. The failure to block Roof's purchase is likely to renew scrutiny of a troubled federal background-check system that allowed troubled young men to acquire firearms, including a 2011 attack in Tucson that wounded then-congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Az.).