S.C. church massacre exposed flaw in FBI background check system

In June of 2015, Dylann Roof walked into a Charleston, South Carolina church and killed nine people with a gun investigators later determined he should not have been allowed to buy.

Police lead suspected shooter Dylann Roof into the courthouse in Shelby, North Carolina, on June 18, 2015.

Police lead suspected shooter Dylann Roof into the courthouse in Shelby, North Carolina, on June 18, 2015.

Reuters/Jason Miczek

Roof bought the .45 caliber handgun legally in South Carolina. His purchase did trigger a background check, but his records did not reflect a recent drug arrest because of a clerical error. That was revealed by the FBI in July of 2015.

A new inspector general report, released Wednesday, cites Roof’s case as a prime example of weaknesses in the background check system.

Thirteen states are allowed to conduct their own background checks using the FBI’s database, which includes arrests reports, felony warrants, and some mental health records.

The report found that in 630 of 631 cases, those states “did not fully update the...database....or inform the FBI of the transaction’s outcome.”

It went on to say the failures increase “the risk that individuals found by states to be prohibited purchasers could be able to purchase firearms in the future.”

Some of the information is still kept in file cabinets of state and local agencies.

FBI assistant director Stephen Morris said system is not outdated.

“The system we have now is a system that we have been relying on since the late 90’s,” he said

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FBI data center

CBS News

Morris gave CBS News a tour of the FBI’s data center in Clarksburg, West Virginia. New technology was introduced in August, meant to speed up the processing of firearm transactions.

But the volume of background check requests remains high.

“What we consider maybe a low day where we get 25, 30,000,” Morris said.

There have been four million more background checks so far in 2016 compared to 2015. Recently, the center added about 100 more people to handle the volume of calls.