Three weeks ago, tragedy struck Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The lives of nine good people were stolen from their friends, families and communities far too soon. One other person was shot and injured in the ordeal. A nation in disbelief has been captivated by their story, wondering how and why someone could step into a house of worship and murder innocent people as they worshiped.
At Bailey & Oliver Law Firm, our mission is two-fold. First and foremost, we dedicate our lives day-in and day-out to helping people and families who have been struck by preventable tragedy. Secondly, we seek to educate the community at large with the hope that we can do something to stem the tide of preventable injury and death. This blog is one way we hope to accomplish that second goal.
That said, as the world watches the aftermath of this terrible shooting unfold, we would like to take a moment to be objective, and explore the “how” aspect of this tragedy. Although the shooter deserves all of the blame and the just wrath that comes with it, news has surfaced in the past week that the shooter’s access to the gun he used was absolutely preventable.
When a dealer sells a firearm of any type, they must send the ID of the purchaser to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The NICS is run by the FBI, and, upon receiving the purchaser’s information, the FBI has three days to run a full background check and approve or deny the purchase.
When the FBI puts itself between danger and the American people, we expect them to do their very important jobs correctly. FBI Director James Comey shocked the world on Friday, July 10 when he revealed the FBI had made “a mistake.”
The shooter, Comey said, “should not have been allowed to purchase the gun he allegedly used that evening.” When the shooter’s name and information were submitted to the FBI, a background check was conducted. Immediately, the FBI discovered during a criminal history check that the shooter had been arrested on a felony drug charge.
If, in looking into the arrest, the FBI had discovered either an actual felony conviction or unlawful drug use, the shooter would have been denied his firearms purchase and tragedy avoided. The arrest record did indicate that the shooter was, indeed, a drug user, and, therefore should have been denied permission to buy a gun.
Even seeing the shooter’s felony arrest record, the FBI did not finish its investigation, and the background check remained listed as “status pending,” and the sale continued.
Due to a geographical mix-up in the FBI’s records and the FBI examiner’s failure to fully investigate the arrest, the gun purchase was not prevented.
Said Comey: “The thought that an error on our part is connected to this guy’s purchase of a gun that is used to slaughter these good people is very painful to us.”
At Bailey & Oliver Law Firm, we take each case that comes before us very seriously. We see our work as not only an opportunity for victims and families to seek justice, but as an opportunity to investigate what went wrong. Oftentimes, we are able to work with defendants and show them what went wrong, and how to operate their business in a way that prevents future tragedies.
Although the FBI did not pull the trigger that day, its negligence played a crucial role in allowing this tragedy to occur. There is a legal precedent for victims of shootings to seek justice not only against the shooter, but against those whose negligence allowed a dangerous weapon to fall into the wrong hands.
Although no power on this earth can heal those wounds or bring the dead back to their loved ones, the families deserve to avail themselves of whatever justice the legal system can offer them. This includes pursuing claims against the FBI for their failed background check and against the seller who sold the gun without a complete background check.
Just as important is accountability. We hope that, in the wake of this tragedy, the legal process can be used to show those who erred along the way exactly what went wrong, and how to help put a stop to future shootings before they ever begin.
Our most sincere and heartfelt prayers go out to the victims and their families. We pray for strength, for healing, and for peace that surpasses all understanding.