Last Friday, the FBI announced that the Charleston AME shooter, Dylann Roof, failed to pass a background check, but was able to legally purchase the gun under the current law. Under current federal law, a purchase from a federally licensed firearm dealer must be cleared, or denied, by the FBI background check system within three days of the request. If an individual is not cleared to purchase the weapon within the three days, the gun dealer is allowed to sell the weapon to the purchaser.
In Roof's case, he had admitted to unlawful drug use in a police report, which would have prohibited him from passing a criminal background check. However, due to confusing local jurisdiction, a non-responsive prosecutor's office and outdated FBI data on Roof's South Carolina County, the FBI was unable to determine Roof's eligibility to purchase a gun before the three-day period expired. Despite having concerns about Roof's criminal history, and because of restrictions placed on the FBI by Congress, the FBI could not prevent the sale. As a result, Roof returned to the gun dealer on the fourth business day and completed his purchase.
Major media outlets are referring to this situation as a "breakdown" in the background check system, but let's be honest and call this what it is: it's an NRA-designed loophole to undermine law enforcement's ability to restrict gun sales even to dangerous and prohibited people and sell more guns at the expense of public safety.
Under the Brady Background Check Law, as it was first proposed, the FBI would have had seven days to check gun buyers criminal records and make an informed determination for purchasers from federally licensed gun dealers. Although still just an arbitrary and often insufficient timeframe, this would have provided the FBI more than twice as much time to verify each purchaser. However, due to heavy lobbying by the special interest gun industry and NRA, who, more effectively than most, intimidate Congress, the Brady Bill was weakened to allow only a three-day window for the FBI to make a determination.
While a three-day waiting period (or the originally proposed seven-day period) is quite short of "instantaneous" as suggested by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System's title, the reality is that the FBI rarely needs the extra time. For 91 percent of sales this extended time frame is totally irrelevant, the FBI is able to clear these purchasers almost instantaneously, the average call is less than two minutes. However, about 9 percent of checks require further examination and these are the background checks that then start to be subject to the three-day period loophole.
Despite the three-day time frame, the FBI continues to work towards a denial or clearance for up to 90 days after the initial request. Ultimately, the FBI denies less than two percent of would-be purchasers. Even so, in 2014 gun dealers transferred 2,511 weapons to prohibited purchasers because the arbitrary three-day period had expired. It's critical to note that, in addition to loopholes in the licensed dealers gun sale system, the major "private gun sale loophole" allows criminals to legally buy guns from private dealers at gun shows and out of car trunks and backpacks without background checks or even proof of ID.
Next year Dylann Roof will be part of the FBI's statistics. Another prohibited person that could have been easily prevented from accessing a firearm from a licensed dealer, but was able to get one and kill innocent people. Why have we allowed the special interest gun industry and their spineless majority in Congress to dictate a national gun policy that restricts law enforcement versus criminals, when the difference is life or death?
Left to their own devices, the gun lobby has designed our national policy to restrict law enforcement and sell more guns to criminals, thus increasing gun violence, fear and ultimately gun sales. For example, here are some of the federal gun policies that a majority of Congress have gone along with, in exchange for gun industry campaign contributions (the very definition of blood money) and to avoid NRA retaliation:
-- Allow guns to be legally sold by private gun dealers in over 30 states without criminal backgrounds so that anyone who can't pass a background check can buy an unlimited number of guns without detection.
-- Require Federally licensed gun dealers, who must run a background check, to sell guns after three business days even if the buyer's record show a potential prohibition.
-- Restrict the FBI, the ATF and local law enforcement from maintaining a database of gun purchasers even from Federally Licensed gun dealers or regulating private gun sales
-- Cut funding for gun violence studies at every intersection
-- Allow mental health adjudications reporting to be voluntary rather than mandatory
-- Unrestricted sales of firearms online in most states
-- And when all is said and done, blame law enforcement for not enforcing existing gun laws that are designed to fail!
Welcome to America -- you're more likely to die from gun violence here!