A South Carolina judge blasted the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Monday over what he called a series of “abysmally poor policy choices” that allowed Dylann Roof to purchase the gun he used to kill nine Black worshipers at a Charleston church in 2015.
In his opinion, Judge Richard Gergel argued the 15 lawsuits filed against the bureau over its negligence in the case revealed “glaring weaknesses” in the background check system that ultimately allowed Roof, 24, to purchase a .45-caliber handgun. Still, he granted the government’s motion to toss the victims’ complaints, which alleged “negligent management of criminal databases and performance of background checks,” the New York Times reported.
Any failures on the part of F.B.I. officials were a “function of distinct policy choices” by the bureau, Gergel wrote, like the one blocking background check examiners’ direct access to the National Data Exchange database. It was this error that cleared Roof to buy the hand-gun, despite having previously admitted to drug possession — which would’ve disqualified him from making the purchase in the first place, according to the newspaper.
Roof’s drug arrest was never discovered by the examiner, however.
“The fault here lies in some abysmally poor policy choices made regarding the operation of the NICS,” Gergel wrote. “…The most obvious of these poor policy choices was the decision to deny the examiners access to the most comprehensive federal criminal justice database.”
According to the Post and Courier, the judge also argued the F.B.I director could fix the issue “today” rather than waiting on the bureaucratic process to change outdated policies that are “hopelessly stuck in 1995.”
Andrew J. Savage III, an attorney representing families and survivors of the Charleston church massacre, expressed disappointment at Monday’s ruling, but said he and his co-counsel would consult with their clients to “explore our options.”
“What happened was inexcusable, and those that allowed the arming of this hate-filled, mentally deranged, drug-abusing racist must be held accountable,” Savage said, later calling the current background check system a “sham”. “Our efforts do not stop here.”
Roof, a self-avowed white nationalist, was sentenced to death by a federal jury early last year for the shooting at Emanuel A.M.E. Church.
In his ruling, Gergel wrote that he hopes the F.B.I. will soon take corrective measures to ensure another failure in the system doesn’t end in tragedy.