Trials & Litigation

Judge tosses suits over background check of Dylann Roof, calls FBI explanation 'nonsense'

  • Print.

A federal judge in Charleston, South Carolina, says the FBI provided a “nonsense” explanation for its failure to quickly discover a key fact in a gun background check of mass shooter Dylann Roof, but the judge nonetheless tossed 16 lawsuits against the agency for the misstep.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said he dismissed the suits Monday because the law creating the background system, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, generally gives the government immunity for failing to prevent gun purchases by wrongdoers, report the Post and Courier, the New York Times and Courthouse News Service.

Gergel nonetheless said the lawsuits had revealed “glaring weaknesses” in the background check system.

The system “is disturbingly superficial, excessively micromanaged by rigid standard operating procedures, and obstructed by policies that deny the overworked and overburdened examiners access to the most comprehensive law enforcement federal database,” Gergel said.

The FBI did not learn before expiration of a three-day waiting period that Roof had formerly told police he used drugs—a fact that would have barred the avowed white supremacist from buying the gun he used to kill nine people in June 2015 at a historically black church in Charleston.

The FBI had learned of the drug arrest, but the background check unit was not able to use an agency database with a police report about Roof’s prior arrest. The FBI says its background check unit doesn’t have a criminal justice purpose, which prevents it from accessing the database.

Gergel said the argument “is simple nonsense” and the FBI does not have to wait to change a regulation to allow access to the database.

Roof was sentenced to death in January 2017.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.