Dylann Roof Case Reveals That Background Checks Don’t Always Work

New information in the Dylann Roof case shows that the background check system used for gun purchases is still prone to human error.

Gun Background Checks

Due to what seems to be a combination of human error and the fact that the nation’s criminal records systems are not as adequately connected as one might thing, Dylann Roof was allowed to purchase the gun he used to kill nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina church even though the required background check had not been completed:

WASHINGTON — The man accused of killing nine people in a historically black church in South Carolina last month was able to buy the gun used in the attack because of a breakdown in the federal gun background check system, the F.B.I. said Friday.

Despite having previously admitted to drug possession, the man, Dylann Roof, 21, was allowed to buy the .45-caliber handgun because of mistakes by F.B.I. agents, a failure by local prosecutors to respond to a bureau request for more information about his case, and a weakness in federal gun laws.

“We are all sick this happened,” said James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director. “We wish we could turn back time. From this vantage point, everything seems obvious.”

The authorities’ inability to prevent Mr. Roof from obtaining the weapon highlighted the continuing problems in the background check system, which was intended to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, drug users and mentally ill people. Despite new procedures and billions of dollars that have been spent on computer upgrades in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the federal authorities still do not have a seamless way of examining Americans’ criminal histories that eliminates human error.

The disclosure also introduced another element of politics into the aftermath of the massacre, which has already led lawmakers in South Carolina to remove the Confederate battle flag that flew outside its State House. Republicans and Democrats quickly seized on the background check failure as the latest evidence to back up their views on gun laws.

Mr. Roof exploited the three-day waiting time that has allowed thousands of prohibited buyers to legally purchase firearms over the past decade — and some of those weapons were ultimately used in crimes, according to court records and government documents.

Background checks for gun purchases have been a fact of life in the United States for more than twenty years now ever since the passage of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act in 1993. The Brady Act was the first law to impose a mandatory federal criminal background check for all gun purchases handled by federally licensed gun dealers. Initially, the law also imposed a five-day waiting period on all purchase but that was gradually phased out when the National Instant Criminal Background Check System was brought online starting in the late 90s. Contrary to the way it’s often represented in the media, though, the NICS is not necessarily an “instant” background check system. For one thing, if the system or some part of it is down then the background check cannot be performed. In theory, this means that someone seeking to purchase a gun on a given day would not be able to bring the weapon home, however there are exceptions to the law that allow the dealer to proceed with the transaction anyway based on their own discretion. Additionally, even when the system is working, it obviously depends upon the criminal and other records being up-to-date and accurate. When they are not, someone who is ineligible may be able to purchase a weapon or someone who is eligible may be denied the ability to do so. In Roof’s case, the problem came due to the fact that there the initial record indicated there some pending charges against him that could have barred him from purchased, charges that Roof himself apparently also disclosed on the form he was required to fill out, but because the information was incomplete, a follow-up by a human agent was required, and this where the mistake happened:

According to Mr. Comey, Mr. Roof first tried to buy the gun on April 11 from a dealer in West Columbia, S.C. The F.B.I., which operates the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, received a call from the dealer, seeking approval to sell Mr. Roof the weapon. The F.B.I. did not give the dealer the authority to proceed with the purchase because the bureau said it needed to do more investigating of Mr. Roof’s criminal history, which showed he had recently been arrested.

Under federal law, the F.B.I. has three business days to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to deny a purchase. If the bureau cannot come up with an answer, the purchaser can return to the dealer on the fourth day and buy the gun.

Many major gun retailers, like Walmart, will not sell a weapon if they do not have an answer from the F.B.I., because of the fear of public criticism if the gun is used in a crime. The marginal sale of one gun means little to the bottom line of a large dealer, which is not the case for smaller stores like the one that sold Mr. Roof his gun.

Two days after Mr. Roof tried to buy the weapon, an examiner at the F.B.I.’s national background check center in Clarksburg, W.Va., began investigating his criminal history. The examiner found that Mr. Roof had been arrested this year on a felony drug charge, but not convicted. The charge alone would not have prevented him from buying the gun under federal law. But evidence that Mr. Roof had been convicted of a felony or was a drug addict would have resulted in a denial, so she continued to investigate his background.

Because Mr. Roof had been arrested in a small part of Columbia that is in Lexington County and not in Richland County, where most of the city is, the examiner was confused about which police department to call. She ultimately did not find the right department and failed to obtain the police report. Had the examiner gained access to the police report, she would have seen that Mr. Roof had admitted to having been in possession of a controlled substance and she would have issued a denial.

The examiner, however, did send a request to the Lexington County prosecutor’s office, which had charged him, inquiring about the case. The prosecutor’s office, however, did not respond.

Around that time the three-day waiting period expired, and Mr. Roof returned to the store and purchased the gun.

Mr. Comey said that he had spoken with the examiner, who he said had been working in that position for several years, adding that she was “heartbroken.”

The facts as the F.B.I. has presented suggest that the Roof transaction reveals two points of failure, neither one of which seems to be easily addressable by changing the laws themselves. First of course, there’s the fact that the gun dealer that Roof had purchased the weapon from allowed the transaction to go forward even though they had not heard back from the NICS system regarding the background check. As noted above, this is perfectly legal because existing Federal Law provides that if the dealer has not heard back from the system after the expiration of three business days then the dealer is permitted to allow the sale to forward at their discretion. Some major retailers have made the business decision to still wait until they have heard back from the system before selling the weapon, but my understanding is that most gun dealers do not have this policy and there’s never really been a case before this where that has been an issue. I suppose one could change the law to mandate that the sale cannot go forward at all until the system has reported back, but that seems somewhat unreasonable. Three business days is a pretty long period of time in a world where these records are now largely available electronically. To put consumers at the mercy of a government bureaucracy that, as we have seen here, is not exactly prompt or competent, seems unreasonable.

The second failure is probably the one that is more concerning, because it raises the possibility that people who should not be allowed to purchase weapons under Federal Law will be able to do so. In this case, the failure came because a human agent failed to contact the correct jurisdiction to ask about the charge that Roof had pending against him. Had they done so, he potentially could have been denied under the background check because Roof had admitted that he was in possession of drugs, a fact that would have disqualified him from being able to purchase a weapons. It’s hard to see what new law could have prevented this mistake from happening. Indeed, the problem that it demonstrates is the fact that the background check system is still quite often dependent upon human actors for its reliability. Perhaps that suggests that the Federal Government needs to invest more money in continuing to modernize criminal records systems around the country, but there’s no amount of money that can make up for the fact that someone sitting at a desk in a Federal Government office in West Virginia made a mistake that should have been easily caught and wasn’t.

Given how highly political the debate about guns in this country, it’s inevitable that this case will be cited by both sides in support of their arguments. Gun control advocates will argue, for example, that this case shows why we need a stricter background check laws that would prevent something like this from happening in the future. Gun right supporters, on the other hand, will argue that this case demonstrates that more background check laws aren’t necessarily the answer because, as I pointed out above, you can’t legislate away human error. To some degree, I think that both sides might have legitimate points. If the system we have now isn’t working the way its supposed to because of incomplete technology or human error, then perhaps we need to talk about spending money to improve the quality of the system we have so that things like this at least become less likely. At the same time, though, the failures here should cause people who think that all we need to do is make the existing background check system stronger to rethink their position because it demonstrates that no system is going to be completely perfect. Given that, passing new laws isn’t necessarily the answer. Ideally, there would be some rational discussion about what we can learn from this failure going forward, but given how the gun debate usually goes in this country I wouldn’t count on that happening.

FILED UNDER: Guns and Gun Control, Law and the Courts, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Tony W says:

    NRA: One thing won’t solve every problem – therefore do nothing

    Reasonable People: Wow, background checks aren’t quite diligent enough, we probably ought to address that.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    Is this post meant to be self-satire? On the one hand rationality, but on the other hand, crazy town. How to decide, how to decide?

    The laws don’t work, Doug, because they are not meant to work. Every law is crafted under the watchful eye of the NRA and its employees in Congress. The NRA shovels giant piles of cash and makes extravagant threats, and then we write a law to keep them happy.

    The NRA’s core purpose is to eliminate any obstruction to the sale of guns. The NRA is the lobbying arm of the gun manufacturers and retailers who are solely interested in profit. They don’t care a whit whether guns get in the hands of murderers, in fact they profit directly from murder. Murder is very good business indeed for the NRA and the manufacturers and retailers. More murder = more fear = more sales = more profit.

    That’s why the laws don’t work.

    There is no ‘on the one hand’ here. There is one side determined to push guns regardless of the death and destruction, and there is the other side that wants fewer guns and therefore fewer murders.

  3. Todd says:

    I suppose one could change the law to mandate that the sale cannot go forward at all until the system has reported back, but that seems somewhat unreasonable.

    And that’s the crux of it. We can’t have have even reasonable gun laws, because even making it at all inconvenient to own a weapon is going too far for some people. If we’re going to have background checks, then I’m sorry, it’s NOT unreasonable to expect that someone should have to be truly cleared before they can make the purchase.

    In these type of gun discussions, rational people also often bring up things like mandatory training, and liability insurance. The reason these don’t have a chance of ever happening is due to the sentiment behind Doug’s quote above.

  4. @Todd:

    Perhaps you need to ask former President Clinton and the 103rd Congress why the law is the way it is. As a general rule, though, I would say that there is no rational reason why, under the NICS system it should take more than three days for the relevant agency to respond to request for a background check. Hence, why i suggested that the answer lies in beefing up the existing system rather than crafting news laws that will merely rely upon the system we already have now.

  5. Stonetools says:

    Laws against murder don’t always work either, so let’s give up on those, right?
    So we should give up on those, right?
    What we should be doing is having proper background checks , waiting periods, and mandatory training for anyone who purchases a gun. In other words we would treat guns like the dangerous and deadly weapons they are , and not like cool toys that us fussy liberals don’t like for some weird reason. You know, the way we treat explosives and every other weapon that’s not the Jesus Weapon.

  6. Todd says:

    If the system we have now isn’t working the way its supposed to because of incomplete technology or human error, then perhaps we need to talk about spending money to improve the quality of the system we have so that things like this at least become less likely.

    And no, we shouldn’t put more money into faster background checks. As far as I’m concerned, a reasonable time for a thorough gun background check would be about the same as getting a passport (i.e. not necessarily quick). If the weapon is needed quicker, so the check needs to be expedited, then the applicant should have to provide a reason; just as they would to obtain a rushed passport.

  7. anjin-san says:

    Yes Doug, background checks don’t always work.

    Can you name something, anything in the course of human endeavors that does always work?

  8. Todd says:

    @Doug:

    I’m sure that language about the sale being allowed if the check wasn’t completed within 3 days was some sort of a compromise to get background checks even passed at all. I’m not naive about how our legislative system works. I do disagree with you though about it being unreasonable now to simply change that part of the law. It seems pretty clear that allowing the sale to go through while the check was still in “pending” status was a significant part of the system failure in this case. You can play up the human error aspect of it, but unless I’m misreading it, it doesn’t sound like the examiner mistakenly approved the background check; she just wasn’t able to get the information she needed quickly enough.

    That’s not human error, it’s a design fault in the procedure itself.

  9. Matt says:

    The latest year with data (2012) shows 89,000 people were denied by the NICS out of 19,592,303 processed background checks. Keep in mind every process isn’t a gun bought nor is every denial legit (transposed numbers etc). Reasons for a NICS check can range from recovering a pawned gun to buying certain firearm related items.

    The NICS has amazing stats considering it’s run by people.

    @michael reynolds: Michael continues to prove he has no interest in negotiating or even reality. When he’s not too busy calling Republicans bed wetters he’s busy wetting his own bed at the thought of a gun. Maybe you should consider some of your own advice?

    More people are murdered in California with hands and feet than with guns in most of the rest of the USA. California has some of the strictest gun control laws in the country yet has a higher rate of murder involving guns than TEXAS!! Texas and California have very similar murder rates overall.

    So fewer guns doesn’t automatically mean fewer murders.

  10. Matt says:

    @Todd: YEs it was part of a compromise. You see without the 3 days maximum wait all it would take to stop gun sales would be for a political party to cut the funding to the NICS. Already Obama and the Democratic party have cut funding to the ATF in a manner that has caused NFA related applications to take +9 months to be processed.

    This is exactly what I was talking about when I said that Feinstein’s bill would of resulted in an effective ban of gun sales. Requiring all private sales to use the NICS without properly funding it would of resulted in the same experience as that with the NFA once they were able to get rid of the 3 day max waiting period. I fully expect there to be an assault on the 3 day max waiting rule and probably even funding for the NICS.

  11. @Stonetools:

    I didn’t say that we should up on background checks. Indeed, if you’ve been reading what I have written issue for the past three years or more, you’d know that I supported something like Manchin-Toomey to make background checks more rigorous. However, even the most rigorous system is going to be imperfect it it relies on human intervention. You may wish to sweep that under the rug as politically inconvenient for your position on this issue, I do not.

  12. wr says:

    @anjin-san: “Can you name something, anything in the course of human endeavors that does always work?”

    Apparently, NRA bribes to congresspeople.

  13. Matt says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Indeed no reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater. We know the fundamentals of the NICS work very well. What we also know so far is that the locals dropped the ball when it came time to report Dylann’s convictions. The NICS is only as good as the data that it’s given.

    In a just world a proper investigation will be completed and the results published to the public. Then reasonable debate can occur as to how to best keep that from happening again.

  14. wr says:

    @Doug Mataconis: ” However, even the most rigorous system is going to be imperfect it it relies on human intervention. You may wish to sweep that under the rug as politically inconvenient for your position on this issue, I do not.”

    I don’t anyone is trying to sweep this under the rug. It’s just that as a statement it is so banal and meaningless that your readers are assuming it must have had some coded message.

  15. Mu says:

    @michael reynolds: So the background check failed because the NRA misfiled the paperwork? Your conspiracy theory is reaching Trump territory. Ever thought about a career in politics?

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I suppose one could change the law to mandate that the sale cannot go forward at all until the system has reported back, but that seems somewhat unreasonable. Three business days is a pretty long period of time in a world where these records are now largely available electronically. To put consumers at the mercy of a government bureaucracy that, as we have seen here, is not exactly prompt or competent, seems unreasonable.

    Ohhh, heaven forbid, that a person who just can’t wait to get his nut off with his new .40 mag semi-auto within 3 days. Oh no, a week is just too big a sacrifice for a consumer to pay…

    Doug, I often disagree with you, but on this one I have to say you really have your head up your a$$. 9 people are dead and you still think Dylan Roof should not have had to wait more than 3 days because it would force other legally allowable gun owners to have to plan ahead.

    I’d like to say more but I know you aren’t the spawn of Satan so I’ll stop now.

  17. OzarkHillbilly,

    It should not take more than three days for a NICS check. If it does, then that means the system needs to be upgraded not that the three day period needs to be expanded.

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Matt:

    Already Obama and the Democratic party have cut funding to the ATF in a manner that has caused NFA related applications to take +9 months to be processed.

    OK, you are either an idiot or an ignoramus. CONGRESS controls the purse strings. WHO controls Congress? Fill in the blank.

  19. michael reynolds says:

    @Mu:

    What a wonderfully stupid response. As is so often the case talking to gun nuts I have to pause and ask myself whether it’s meant to be parody. Is it? Is it a joke I missed somehow?

    The NRA is a “conspiracy theory?” How about the million dollars in direct NRA contributions? Is that theory? How about the 3.4 million spent on overt lobbying? How bout the 28 million in “outside” spending? All that in just 2014.

    Do you want to tell me the NRA has not opposed every gun law in the last 20 years? You want to tell me they didn’t support armor-penetrating bullets – bullets that will blow right through a policeman’s vest? You want to tell me they don’t crudely threaten any pol who opposes them?

    Do you live in a hole in the ground somewhere? Is this your first day of access to the internet?

    Here’s those commies at Business Insider:

    In its early days, the National Rifle Association was a grassroots social club that prided itself on independence from corporate influence.

    While that is still part of the organization’s core function, today less than half of the NRA’s revenues come from program fees and membership dues.

    The bulk of the group’s money now comes in the form of contributions, grants, royalty income, and advertising, much of it originating from gun industry sources.

    Since 2005, the gun industry and its corporate allies have given between $20 million and $52.6 million to it through the NRA Ring of Freedom sponsor program. Donors include firearm companies like Midway USA, Springfield Armory Inc, Pierce Bullet Seal Target Systems, and Beretta USA Corporation. Other supporters from the gun industry include Cabala’s, Sturm Rugar & Co, and Smith & Wesson.

    The NRA also made $20.9 million — about 10 percent of its revenue — from selling advertising to industry companies marketing products in its many publications in 2010, according to the IRS Form 990.

    Additionally, some companies donate portions of sales directly to the NRA. Crimson Trace, which makes laser sights, donates 10 percent of each sale to the NRA. Taurus buys an NRA membership for everyone who buys one of their guns. Sturm Rugar gives $1 to the NRA for each gun sold, which amounts to millions. The NRA’s revenues are intrinsically linked to the success of the gun business.

    So, wrapping up here, you dismiss as a Trump-level conspiracy theory, statements I have just fully documented.

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Doug, in who’s world? Because in this world, APPARENTLY IT DOES. Reality Doug, does it ever give you a headache? Because you sure seem to enjoy ramming into it.

    And for the record, waiting a week is not too much to ask. I remember those days. They were horrible, just horrible I tell you!!!! What is it about planning ahead and waiting a few days that is such an infringement on freedum? Especially when it will probably stop many suicides*** and many other crimes of passion? (b1tch won’t leave me!)

    ***I have personally known 4 suicides, 3 fatal, 1 not. The 3 fatal? All with guns. The 1 not? Ran a hose from the exhaust to the cab of his truck. Most failed suicides never try again. Funny enuf, neither do any of the successful ones. I leave it up to you to figure out what that means.

  21. michael reynolds says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    No, see, a waiting period to deal with aborting your rapist’s baby is fine. A waiting period to buy a gun and shoot your wife, that has to be hurried right along.

  22. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @michael reynolds: Doh!!!! Silly me, you are absolutely right Michael. Thank you*** ever so much for helping me to see the error of my thinking. How could I have been so wrong?

    ***and truly, thanx for tying the 2 together to illustrate the ridiculousness even more.

  23. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Oooops, 5 suicides. I forgot to count the murder suicide I witnessed. In that case, he borrowed his brother’s gun. So don’t give me any high minded talks about “2nd Amendment rights” and “responsible gun owners”. I’ve seen the reality, I’ve seen dead people lying in the streets, listened to the breathing of a man who’s brains were lying in the gutter behind him, and heard the screams of orphaned children. My dreams are haunted by those screams, I can’t forget them.

    THAT is reality. And it sucks. Doing nothing, because it won’t stop the last killing, is a cowards way. It isn’t about the stopping the last killing, that horse is out the barn door. It’s about stopping the next killing. And if it doesn’t stop the next killing, maybe the one after that.

    I’m a gun owner, and I am sick of this sh1t. We can do something about it. In fact, we can do many things about it. If it inconveniences me, tuff sh1t. I’m a big boy, I can deal with it. Especially if it saves just one human life. If it means I can’t have some gun or have to give up a gun I already own? I’ll live. Human lives are more important.

    Clear now?

  24. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The problem with progressives is that everyone realizes that all of the talk about reasonable waiting periods and background checks are a lie. The amicus briefs gave away what progressives really believe: that Americans do not have any right to own any form of fire arm and that the government can decide who can own a fire arm, what kind of fire arm they can own, and where they own it in a purely arbitrary matter. Even after the District of Columbia lost in front of the Supreme Court in the original Heller decisions, gun owners had to sue and win again to force the District of Columbia to keep from passing regulations that made gun ownership impossible.

    Of course, progressives do not like to remind people that courts have ruled that local and state governments cannot be held liable for the failure to answer 911 calls or to protect people from criminals. If government is not going to take any responsibility for protecting citizens from crime except at the ballot box, then what do they expect people to do?

  25. Bob @ Youngstown says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    Thank you for that,sincerely.

    BTW, not that it’s significant, but didn’t Roof commit perjury on his application?

  26. stonetools says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Hey, pal, its not my team that opposed universal background checks and is generally trying to make acquiring guns easier still.
    Look, any engineer worth his salt will tell you that the way to design a robust safety system is to design one with multiple points of failure. Thanks to the gun lobby, we’ve designed a system with one point of failure-a cursory background check-and we have made that point of failure weak and incomplete. Heck, Roof could have acquired the gun in several different ways that evaded the background check altogether.If there was a required waiting period or training course that he would have had to take, it’s possible he would have lost patience or reconsidered the enterprise altogether.
    Let’s face it the current system of acquiring guns isn’t designed with public safety in the mind. It’s designed so the consumers of the gun industry can acquire their toys as quickly and as easily as possible, public safety be damned.
    I welcome your suggestion that we spend more for background checks. I can tell you right now that gun cultists will fiercely resist any attempt to make them better and more accurate, because that wouldn’t be convenient for them.

  27. stonetools says:

    @Mu:

    So the background check failed because the NRA misfiled the paperwork? Your conspiracy theory is reaching Trump territory. Ever thought about a career in politics?

    No, the NRA didn’t misfile the paperwork. But they did conspire to make a system for acquiring guns such that a single paperwork misfile allowed a racist ideologue to acquire a gun and kill nine people with it. They are like the construction industry lobbyist who makes the building code so lenient that a building built to code falls down at the slightest tremor. And they’re doing it for the same reason-profit.

  28. markm says:

    I just picked up yet another pistol and didn’t have any issues.

    Maybe the issue is within the system. Someone gets poked for a crime and then quickly turns around and buys a gun…..maybe the paper trail can’t keep up with real time. Dunno.

  29. anjin-san says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I’m a gun owner, and I am sick of this sh1t.

    Hear, hear.

    I’ve been shooting for almost half a century now. I have several pistols in my gun safe. I want to get Rosewood handles for my Beretta. I’ve always liked guns and enjoyed shooting.

    That being said, I am so sick of this sh1t.

  30. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I wish you were on my side related to criminal background checks for teachers and applying for visas. In these cases, the subjects are told that criminal background checks “take as long as they take” and we have to wait until they finish their work. Presently, the average time is somewhere between eight and twenty weeks.

    Four plus days is unreasonable? I’m so sad…

  31. Clarence Abernathy says:

    @michael reynolds: if money is all it takes, why does Bloomberg keep losing elections across the nation, even when his side throws 10 times the money into it?

  32. Clarence Abernathy says:

    @stonetools: since illegal firearms are easily available on the blackmarket, especially to someone like D Roof who already bought drugs, why would normal people count on gun laws to protect them from violent criminals?

  33. michael reynolds says:

    Oh, this is interesting, and so is this. It looks like Hillary’s people fired one across Bernie’s bow. The gun thing is gold. I might have held off another week or two, but they’re the ones with the polling.

  34. James Pearce says:

    To put consumers at the mercy of a government bureaucracy that, as we have seen here, is not exactly prompt or competent, seems unreasonable.

    Efforts can be made to make the government bureaucracy more prompt and competent.

    @Clarence Abernathy:

    since illegal firearms are easily available on the blackmarket, especially to someone like D Roof who already bought drugs, why would normal people count on gun laws to protect them from violent criminals?

    It’s entirely possible that Dylan Roof wouldn’t have been able to afford a black market gun.

    At the very least it would have complicated his plan. Instead of “Buy gun, kill people,” it would have been “Get underworld contacts, save up for illegal gun, buy gun, kill people.”

    I mean, we’re not talking about how to avoid these kinds of murders. We know how. We just need to find a way that accomplishes that while also satisfying the people who insist we’re just going to have to live with the occasional massacre, because (shrug) what are you gonna do?

  35. bill says:

    look at the bright side, if drugs were legal he wouldn’t have even had that box to check.
    last i heard his parents knew he was crazy and did nothing.
    that’s a resounding theme among mass shooters yet they somehow walk among us- must have the same rights or something?

    then you have something like lynne russel’s husband, what if he didn’t have a gun?

  36. Lenoxus says:

    Because it fits this thread better, I’m replying to Jenos from another thread here.

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Despite conservative hyperbole, liberals don’t think guns kill people in the abstract, all by themselves. But because guns are very effective killing tools, they increase the chances of death wherever they are (accidents, suicides, etc). If that place happens to be the hands of someone who is likely to try killing someone, then the odds of death increase dramatically, and something should be done to prevent this — for example better background checks.

    On the other hand, purist gun-rights rhetoric (the dominant form of the rhetoric these days, a zero-exceptions stance because You Do Not Compromise on Constitutional Rights) doesn’t allow for background checks at all. Background checks are very blatantly tools of an Orwellian dystopia — did you know that Stalin and Hitler had rules about who could or couldn’t have guns? The only proper point of enforcement is after the gun has been used to murder. Until that point, on what basis does the government have the right to say Roof can’t defend himself against hypothetical attackers?

    I am not straw-manning or weak-manning here. This is the meat and potatoes of contemporary pro-gun-rights positions. By contrast, who was the last liberal politician to say something like “ban all the guns” or whatever? At best, you can find ones who want to strengthen gun laws. And one advantage of the mainstreaming of extreme pro-gun rhetoric is that any possible change in the direction of more gun control can plausibly be made as equivalent to total gun confiscation. After all, guns are just like speech. They’re like children. You wouldn’t have a law that bans even a few rarely-used words from being printed, and you wouldn’t have one that arbitrarily abducts children from their homes.

    This is the point standard gun-rights rhetoric has brought us to. Exhibit A, superdestroyer’s comment above.

  37. anjin-san says:

    @bill:

    last i heard his parents knew he was crazy and did nothing.

    Not surprisingly, you fail to support your argument with any facts or cites. But let’s stipulate, for the sake of argument, that his parents were certain that Roof had mental health issues. What do you expect them to “do”? Please be specific.

    Our mental health system is broken. Conservatives don’t really want to pay for any domestic programs. If you want to address this sorry state of affairs, by all means, lets’ do so. As is it, turning over the mental health card is simply a dodge that the right plays when there is a mass shooting and they want to divert attention from the ease with which guns can be acquired in this country.

  38. superdestroyer says:

    @Lenoxus:

    IF you look at the amicus briefs from District of Columbia vs Heller, progressives were consistent is writing that the Second Amendment did not guarantee that anyone had a right to own a gun, that states could have whatever regulations that they wanted to have, and the second amendment just meant that the states could have militias.

    Also, the District of Columbia (along with cities like Chicago and Los Angeles) have tried to have regulations that are impossible to comply with and guarantee that the government has total control on who can own a fire arm. Federal regulations are written to keep law enforcement from being arbitrary and capricious.

  39. stonetools says:

    @Lenoxus:

    One of my reading interests is science fiction. A sub-genre I like is alternate history. I can imagine an alternate history where explosives get the favored “Jesus Weapon” treatment, not guns, and a bomber, not a gunfighter, is the mythic hero who saves the day . In that Mirror Universe, I can see a National Bomb Association insisting that there be no restrictions on the sale, transport, and use of explosives and that “bombs don’t kill people, people kill people”. I can see bomb apologists arguing that people calling for bomb safety regulation are pinko liberals who don’t like bombs and who don’t understand bomb culture. I could see people arguing that land mines are the best form of area defense (they’re correct about that) and that land mines are needed to stop those deadly home intruders because the police will come too late to intervene. I can see someone argue that he needs to carry a couple of hand grenades to go to the local suburban coffee shop because he has a right to defend himself. I could see another person arguing that there should be no restrictions on his favorite RPG because they are useful for killing varmints and because other kinds of RPGs kill more people . I could see bomb cultists argue that even background checks are a restriction on their constitutional right to “keep and bear” their favorite type of arms, while in full agreement that guns should only be limited to carefully vetted and trained consumers who carry liability insurance against their misuse.
    Maybe one day Michael or someone can write that story.

  40. Lenoxus says:

    @stonetools: The Onion (of course) has played around with ideas like that, involving “weapons” that are possibly safer than guns in most circumstances:

    National Machete Association Speaks Out Against Machete-Control Legislation

    Gorilla Sales Skyrocket After Latest Gorilla Attack

    I’d be interested in a more serious treatment like what you describe.

  41. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Matt: If you’d read the coverage closely, you would have seen that the problem with the background check was that an FBI employee in West Virginia, IIRC, contacted the wrong law enforcement agency in South Carolina to check on Roof”s record.

  42. Boyd says:

    Here’s the thing that’s bothering me. The FBI still managed to figure out that Roof was a prohibited person (not permitted to buy or own a gun) before he committed the murders. Why didn’t they act (as they can, and often do) to confiscate Roof’s illegally purchased gun before he murdered nine innocents?

  43. Bob @ Youngstown says:

    @Boyd:

    The examiner, however, did send a request to the Lexington County prosecutor’s office, which had charged him, inquiring about the case. The prosecutor’s office, however, did not respond.

    Boyd… if the above (no response from Lexington Co. prosecuter) is true, then when did “the FBI” figure out that Roof was a prohibited person?

    Without making excuses, it is obvious that the flow of contemporaneous information, to be provided by local jurisdictions, to the NICS system is not completely reliable.

    As I seem to recall, South Carolina only began to provide “mental defect adjudications” to NICS after the Sandy Hook shooting.

    However, your point is well taken. Had the FBI known that a gun sale was consummated to a prohibited person then the legal work to proceed with confiscation should have been started. The only way NICS would know that is for them to establish that Roof was a prohibited person, then NICS would have had to contact the gun shop to determine if the sale had been consummated.

  44. Boyd says:

    @Bob @ Youngstown: I seem to recall that the FBI cleared him for purchasing the gun at some point after the purchase had been completed, but I could be incorrect. I don’t remember where I picked up that information.

    So the question remains, what determination did the FBI make on his eligibility for purchasing a gun, and when? They can’t just push it to the side without any decision (well, they can, but they shouldn’t if they’re actually doing their jobs).

  45. al-Ameda says:

    @Matt:

    So fewer guns doesn’t automatically mean fewer murders.

    Oh, I’d be willing to bet that if we reduced the supply and easy availability of guns from the current 300 million that we’d have a reduction is gun-related mayhem.

    To me it’s a simple matter of statistics – a nation of 300 million people, with a supply of 300 million guns, it’s almost inevitable that we’re going to have an annual mass killing. Add to that a strong pro-gun ownership culture, and you realize that nothing is going to change anytime soon.

  46. CB says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Not to single you out, but any sentence that starts like this…

    The problem with progressives/conservatives is that…

    …can be immediately discounted. As if each group is completely, 100% homogenous. Don’t be ridiculous.

    Oh, right.

  47. Bob @ Youngstown says:

    @Boyd:

    I can’t find any reporting that the FBI cleared Roof to purchase AFTER the actual purchase.

    It will be interesting to see what the review of this case reveals, my suspicion is that there were lapses at several agencies. But as to confiscation, I can imagine that is not a simple process involving obtaining warrants and the ATF, and local law enforcement.

  48. Boyd says:

    @Bob @ Youngstown: There’s a lot of information surrounding NICS denials here [PDF]. A pertinent quote:

    Some prohibited persons obtain a firearm during a “delayed transaction,” where the FBI has not completed a check in three business days and the dealer is allowed to transfer the firearm. When the FBI finds a prohibitory record and is informed by the dealer that a transfer occurred, a “delayed denial” referral is made to ATF.

    So I think it’s safe to say that the FBI should have come to a determination long before the Charleston murders, and if it was classified as a denial, it should have been referred to ATF for retrieval, all according to existing procedures at both agencies.

  49. Matt says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: What was your answer when it came to ACA? Despite the Democrats being technically in control?

    The position that really matters though is the Presidency. He’s the one who gets to appoint the director and such. He’s the one that can pressure the ATF to re-prioritize internal funding. It’s awful odd that NFA wait times have ballooned under Obama while actual numbers of applications haven’t increased in proportion.

    @SC_Birdflyte: Which they only had to do because the locals messed up the paper work. No contact would of been required had the locals properly filed the paperwork.

    @al-Ameda: Gun related deaths only account for a small percentage of yearly deaths. California which has far more strict gun control laws has more gun related murders a year per 100,000 people than Texas which is supposed to be flooded with weaponry.

    As stated earlier more people are murdered in California with hands and feet (Strangulation is listed separately from hands/feet) than gun related murders in most states.

  50. Matt says:

    @michael reynolds: You’re an idiot when it comes to guns. It’s like a Pavlovian response for you. All takes is someone to say GUN and your brain instantly turns off.

    Every rifle bullet including all the hunting ones are technically armor piercing. You can’t ban armor piercing bullets without banning every hunting round in existence. You either know this and can’t help yourself to use it as a talking point or you’re just plain ignorant about hunting.

    You remind me of the people on facebook linking the 24 month fetus picture and complaining about Democrats blocking the banning of late term abortions. Like those people you can’t be bothered with actually learning the facts of the case. Which in the case of the abortion ban is it would effect 1% of all abortions of which teh vast majority of those 1% are done due to medical conditions including a dead fetus. Because removing a dead fetus under that law is classified as an abortion. Facts are for nerds!!!

    BTW an air powered pellet gun can “blow through a policeman’s vest” if shot at the right spot.

  51. Bob @ Youngstown says:

    @Boyd:
    Your link is a very useful one, Thanks.

    Not sure that I agree that “safe to say that the FBI should have come to a determination long before the Charleston murders”.
    From what the AP is reporting, the NICS examiner(s) had not gotten verification sufficient to make a determination that Roof was a prohibited person. It’s unclear when, if ever, NICS obtained that information prior to the Charleston shootings.

    If the NICs center followed procedure the first thing they would have done (assuming NICS “discovered” that Roof was prohibited) would be to call the gun dealer to determine if a gun had been actually delivered to Roof. It would be only after that time (verification of actual delivery) that the case would have been referred to DENI branch of ATF. If we can find out when the gun dealer was asked if he sold a weapon, that would be the first clue to the timing of the FBI determination.

    The major take-away in this whole series of mistakes, is that three days may not be sufficient time.

    I wonder how the gun dealer feels, as it was sold “at his discretion”.