Families of Church Shooting Victims Sue FBI

     (CN) – The families of nine people murdered in the Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston, S.C., last year filed multiple wrongful-death suits against the federal government on Friday, saying clerical errors allowed the shooter to purchase the gun used in the killings.
     Five survivors of the June 17, 2015, incident also filed complaints based on the same allegation.
     The lawsuits contend accused gunman Dylann Roof should have been barred from purchasing a gun because he previously admitted to illegal drug use.
     However, due to a clerical error, his federally required background check was not completed within the three days licensed gun dealers must wait for them.
     As recounted in the suit filed by Jennifer Pinckney, widow of Pastor Clementa Pinckney, who was leading the Bible class at which the murders occurred, the alleged gunman was questioned by police on Feb. 28, 2015, after an incident at a Columbia, S.C. shopping mall, and was found to be in the possession of a bottle of Suboxone, a narcotic used to treat opiate addictions.
     After Roof admitted he did not have a prescription for the drug, he was arrested and charged with possession of a Schedule III drug.
     Pinckney and the other family members say that because Roof was an admitted drug user, he should not have been able to buy a gun under the Brady Act, which expressly prohibits sale of a firearm to anyone who is “an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act).”
     “In addition,” Pinckney’s complaint says, “the arrest records from Roof’s February 29, 2015 arrest indicated that Roof had been charged with a felony.”
     Although Pinckney acknowledges that listed charge was not correct Roof had actually been charged with a misdemeanor the transmitted report of a felony charge should also have prevented him from buying a gun.
     But just six weeks later, Roof walked into Shooter’s choice, a federally licensed firearms dealer in West Columbia, S.C., and began the process of purchasing the 45.-caliber Glock that authorities say was used in the crimes.
     After that waiting period elapsed, Roof was allowed to purchase the weapon.
     Pinckney claims the murder of her husband and those who died with him occurred because the government failed to deny the sale of the handgun to Roof “in violation of the mandatory and non-discretionary duties of the Brady Act.”
     The lawsuits assert claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The families seek actual and compensatory damages, but more than that, they seeks a change in federal gun laws, said attorney Andy Savage, who is representing three of the survivors of the attack.
     “All of our clients are very committed to the lives of their loved ones not being lost in vain, and to use the forum which they involuntarily have been given to push for reasonable safety regulations,” Savage said.
     Since the murders, Savage said, “the survivors and family members have watched the continuing failure of those who are responsible to recognize the importance of screening purchasers in the interest of safe gun ownership.
     “The Federal inaction to close the gaps in the vetting system means that if States wish to address the issue, they are forced to implement their own workarounds to deal with incomplete or incorrect information passed on by a deficient Federal system,” the attorney said.
     “The victims and families hope that by bringing these actions, they can shine a very bright light on these shortcomings and prevent other individuals, families and communities from dealing with unfathomable and preventable loss and injury,” Savage said.
     Three weeks after the murders, FBI Director James Comey admitted failures in completing the background check within the required three days. At the time, he blamed the delay on inaccurate and incomplete paperwork.
     In a written statement issued on July 10, 2015, Comey went on to say that he had “directed a full review of the matter by our Inspection Division.”
     “But the bottom line is clear: Dylann Roof should not have been able to legally buy that gun that day,” the FBI director said.
     Federal officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

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