The child killed by a distracted driver; the teen who took their own life due to bullying; or a family whose home was lost to a fire because of improper electrical wiring are all examples of avoidable tragedies. In life, the saddest event is rarely the unstoppable tragedy but the avoidable one. The tornado that destroys a house is somehow easier to deal with because nothing could have been done to avoid it. But, when we look back and see that things could have been different, it hurts all the more.
As more facts come to light about the killing of nine people in a church in Charleston, South Carolina it is becoming clearly obvious that this, too, was an avoidable tragedy. In this case, the victims could have done nothing to avoid their unfortunate fate. What has been revealed, however, is that someone in a position of trust could have, and should have, done much more. While the justice system is taking its course concerning the actions of the man who pulled the trigger, a cause that may have enabled the shooter has not yet seen its day in court.
According to law, any time a gun broker sells a firearm, the buyer of the gun must pass a background check with the FBI. FBI Director James Comey recently admitted that mistakes were made with the background check of this shooter, Dylann Roof. When Roof’s information was checked, a felony drug arrest was noted but no conviction. That arrest alone wasn’t enough to deny the purchase, so the FBI examiner continued checking. This is where the tragedy should have been avoided. But, in a serious of events involving bureaucratic red-tape, a lack of communication between police departments, and an eventual move on to other matters – Roof’s application was allowed to sit beyond the three-day time limit for background checks and the gun was released to his possession. If the proper procedures had been followed, the FBI would have discovered that Roof was ineligible to purchase the gun because he was considered “an unlawful drug user or addict.”
My heart, and all of our hearts at Bailey & Oliver, grieve for the families and loved ones of those lost in this avoidable tragedy. Every day we deal with people who have suffered great loss and we hurt with them. But it is impossible to fully know the depths of their pain. Our job is to fight for those who are hurt, grieving, and in no position to fight for themselves. We believe in holding people and organizations accountable when their conduct has led to someone else’s loss – even if it’s the FBI. Along the way we aim to educate and raise awareness about how to prevent avoidable tragedies, which have become far too common.
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley said, “It’s disastrous that this bureaucratic mistake prevented existing laws from working and blocking an illegal gun sale… The American people, and especially the victims’ families deserve better.”
We think so, too. They deserve better than a process that can so easily fall prey to mistake; they deserve better than waking up each day without their loved ones; and they deserve better than being victims of an avoidable tragedy.
Whatever measure of justice may someday come for these families, if the proper parties are held responsible, it could never replace what they have lost. The best we can hope for is that by spreading their story and the stories of so many others just like them, some future, avoidable tragedy can be prevented.