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National

FBI Says Dylann Roof Shouldn't Have Been Able To Buy Gun

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

The FBI says the man accused of killing nine people in a Charleston, S.C., church last month should not have been able to buy a gun. Weeks before the massacre, Dylann Roof had admitted to local police that he possessed drugs, something the FBI says should've disqualified him from buying a gun. But a background checker never saw that police record. NPR's Carrie Johnson reports.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: FBI Director James Comey blames paperwork flaws and miscommunication for what he calls a heartbreaking mistake. When Dylann Roof tried to buy a handgun on April 11 this year, he had a criminal charge on his record. That charge turned up in an FBI background check, but the examiner never saw a document that said Roof had acknowledged possessing a controlled substance, something the FBI says should have barred him from buying the weapon under the national criminal background check system.

According to the FBI director, there were two problems. First, the wrong local law enforcement agency was listed in criminal records, and when the longtime FBI background examiner called the locals, she learned of that mistake. Then came the second problem - the FBI examiner never reached police in Columbia, S.C., which actually had the information on Roof. Instead, she consulted the contact sheet for a different county in the state.

The FBI director has ordered an internal review. The Justice Department's inspector general was already auditing how well the FBI and other law enforcement comply with the background check system. And in South Carolina, FBI agents plan to meet with the family members of the nine people who died in the Emanuel AME church to explain what happened. On Capitol Hill, lawmakers called for hearing to examine the breakdown in the system. As for Dylann Roof, he faces murder and weapons charges in South Carolina while the U.S. Justice Department considers whether it should also prosecute him for a hate crime. Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.