The FBI hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory over the past decade. One of the bureau’s biggest black eyes came when it was revealed that the bureau failed to deny a firearms purchase to the Charleston church shooter who later murdered nine people with the gun. Survivors of the shooting had filed a wrongful death suit against the bureau for failing to deny the purchase despite an earlier admission of narcotics possession.
A federal judge has dismissed 16 lawsuits filed by survivors of a 2015 mass shooting at a South Carolina church who sued the government over the failure of an FBI-run background check system to prevent the purchase of the murder weapon.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel also criticized what he called “abysmally poor” Federal Bureau of Investigation policies for the system that allowed Dylann Roof buy the gun he used to kill nine people, all African-Americans, at a historic black church in Charleston.
The survivors claimed that the FBI had sufficient information their systems to deny the shooter’s purchase during his background check process.
Wrongful death lawsuits filed by survivors and family members of victims of the shooting alleged that at least one of the background check databases maintained by the federal government had information that should have prevented the firearm sale.
Gergel criticized the FBI’s policy to deny background check examiners access to the database, known as N-DEx.
If the examiner assigned to Roof’s purchase request had been able to access N-DEx, he would have seen Roof’s 2015 drug arrest and would have barred him from buying the gun, Gergel wrote in his decision.
The government’s argument in the case that it had to deny background check employees access to N-DEx, as it was restricted to law enforcement agencies, was “simple nonsense,” Gergel wrote.
Multiple NICS failures, including Charleston and the Sutherland Springs shootings, allowed prohibited persons to purchase firearms later used in mass shootings and have prompted the passage of so-called Fix NICS provisions in the latest budget bill.
It clearly pained Judge Gergel to dismiss the survivors’ suit against the hapless law enforcement agency.
In his ruling released late Monday, Gergel said that the government had immunity from being sued for its policies, “even really bad policy choices.”