FBI director: Charleston shooter shouldn't have been able to buy gun

FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyGiuliani told investigators it was OK to 'throw a fake' during campaign DOJ watchdog unable to determine if FBI fed Giuliani information ahead of 2016 election Biden sister has book deal, set to publish in April MORE said that the national background check system should have prevented the man who allegedly killed nine people at a historically black South Carolina church from buying a gun.

Suspect Dylann Roof was arrested in February on a felony narcotics charge that would have caused him to fail a background check.

Comey told reporters that the arrest was either not in the federal computer system or not properly reviewed by someone at the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, according to the Washington Post.

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“This case rips all of our hearts out, but the thought that an error on our part is connected to a gun this person used to slaughter these people is very painful to us,” Comey told reporters at the FBI headquarters, according to the Post.

Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, lamented the failure in a statement released Friday, saying the shooting could have been stopped.

“It is heartbreaking to learn the tragedy that struck the members and families of Mother Emanuel Church and shook the entire nation possibly could have been prevented. We simply cannot have such failures in our background check system, and peoples’ lives are at stake,” he said.

“Clearly, more oversight is needed. I expect the Senate Judiciary Committee will be looking further into this matter so we can make sure such a tragic mistake is never repeated.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, called the situation a disaster and panned attempts to expand gun control laws in the wake of the shooting.

“It’s disastrous that this bureaucratic mistake prevented existing laws from working and blocking an illegal gun sale," he said in a statement.
 
"The facts undercut attempts to use the tragedy to enact unnecessary gun laws. The American people, and especially the victims' families, deserve better.”
 
President Obama, as well as other Democrats, called for lawmakers to readdress the gun control debate in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. 
 
"At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries," he said.
 
"It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it."  

Roof has been charged on nine murder counts as well as three counts of attempted murder, but federal prosecutors are also expected to charge him with a hate crime.

Until Comey’s admission, reports had questioned how Roof obtained a gun.

Pictures released after the shooting show Roof posing with a handgun and the Confederate flag. South Carolina removed the flag from its statehouse grounds on Friday.

This story was updated at 3:43 p.m.