WASHINGTON -- Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old from South Carolina who is accused of killing nine people at a historic African-American church in Charleston last month, never should have been allowed to purchase a weapon, the head of the FBI said Friday.
A flaw in the background check system operated by the FBI, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, didn't turn up a record of Roof admitting to drug possession, the FBI director told reporters, according to reports.
“We are all sick this happened,” FBI Director James B. Comey said Friday, according to The New York Times. “We wish we could turn back time.”
Nonetheless, gun advocates told The Huffington Post on Friday that tightening the background check system is not the right response to the Charleston shooting.
Erich Pratt, a spokesman for Gun Owners of America, said, "We've tried background checks; they do not work ... Making it more difficult for people to get firearms is not stopping bad guys from getting guns."
Pratt said if people in the church had been armed, that "absolutely" could have prevented deaths. "We've seen church shootings/massacres that were attempted and nipped in the bud" because of concealed carry, he said.
"Ascribing this incident to some imagined concept such as a 'loophole' is a sleight-of-hand to simply divert attention from what is really important," said Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association.
He added, "People need to assume personal responsibility for their own welfare, including personal safety, rather than expecting society or others to provide that for them."
But according to an investigation by Mother Jones, not one of 62 mass shootings they looked at were stopped by armed civilians.
Comey said on Thursday that he was not yet sure whether Roof's attack met the legal definition of terrorism.
UPDATE: 6:45 p.m. -- The FBI released a statement Friday in which Comey explained in some detail how Roof slipped through the cracks of the background check process.
"Dylann Roof, the alleged killer of so many innocent people at the Emanuel AME church, should not have been allowed to purchase the gun he allegedly used that evening," Comey said in the statement.
Because of a paperwork omission, Comey said, the FBI examiner in charge of looking into Roof's background spoke with law enforcement officials in Lexington County and West Columbia, South Carolina -- but she did not speak with police in Columbia, South Carolina, although they were the ones who had actually arrested Roof.
"After that horrific day when Roof allegedly used the gun in Charleston, the matter was obviously researched and the rap sheet confusion -- listing the arresting agency as the Lexington County Sheriff -- and the internal contact sheet omission were discovered," Comey said. "But the bottom line is clear: Dylann Roof should not have been able to legally buy that gun that day."
You can read the full statement here.