FBI Director James B. Comey admitted that the FBI’s NICS system failed and allowed the Charleston Emanuel AME church murderer to buy his firearm over the counter. The breakdown resulted from several FBI and local law enforcement errors. They were failures in the human component as well as the design of the NICS database. Comey has ordered a 30-day review of procedures and processes that led to the failure.
The killer’s admission to a felony drug crime should have been noted in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). That admission should have red-flagged the killer’s application. According to Comey, information had been incorrectly entered in into the FBI’s databases. In addition, South Carolina law enforcement agencies confused the situation or did not respond in a timely manner. “It’s not clear why that happened,” Comey said of the errors, “but it made a big difference.” As a result of the “highly improbable“ bureaucratic errors, the killer’s NICS check did not reject him, and he walked out of the gun store with a pistol.
The failure is worrisome, as the $100 million a year NICS failed to do what it was promised to do. There is a growing body of evidence that the NICS actually catches very few criminals, who of course normally get their weapons from uncontrolled back-alley purchases. In a prior year, only 11 criminals were successfully prosecuted through the NICS system. One hundred million a year could pay for a lot of cops on the street, doing a whole lot more to fight crime. Instead of giving the gun-control community pause, these shortfalls have only resulted in more strident calls for gun-control, including demands that every gun sale to go through the NICS system.
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