Dylan Roof, 21, of Lexington SC, evidently a high school drop-out, has confessed to the murders of nine people who had welcomed him into their midst and into a Bible study group in their church's basement in Charleston, SC. Roof sat with them for an hour and then produced a pistol, a Glock Model 21, .45 ACP semi-automatic with which he shot to death six women and three men, sparing one after telling her that she would live to recount what he had done.
There are various questions raised in the media concerning mental health, Southern culture, gun sales, etc. Roof was from a little town 1oo miles away. He traveled to Charleston to do this.
- This weapon costs at least $500. Who paid for that? He was evidently unemployed and not living in his parents home.
- One account of how he got the gun describes the acquisition as a birthday gift from his father. This young man had nothing about him to recommend to a parent the gift of a large caliber pistol. If that is what happened then a case is strengthened for required federal and state background checks for private transfer of firearms including between family members.
- According to a second version of the acquisition, Roof bought the pistol himself with birthday gift money. In this version of the story he bought the pistol from a gun dealer in Charleston. In that case the dealer would have had a Federal Firearms License and a federal background check would have been required. Roof does not seem to have had a record of treated mental health problems. He had been convicted of a trespass misdemeanor and was awaiting trial for felony possession of illegal drugs. The federal firearms transfer check should have picked up the pending felony trial and blocked the sale. I don't know what SC law is on this. In Virginia the transfer would have been illegal and picked up in the additional state check. If Roof's purchase of this pistol was not blocked by the background check then the efficacy of such checks is questionable.
Possession of a firearm is an individual constitutional right in the US. The federal courts including SCOTUS have repeatedly supported that right although allowing "reasonable" restrictions on the right. These restrictions include background checks, but are background checks really effective blocks to possession of firearms by criminals or the mentally ill?
If the answer is "no," then some solution must be found for the obvious problem we have in the use of firearms for crimes like the one in Charleston.
Politicians will, of course, demagogue the issue and the media will chatter stupidly but Obama is right in saying we must find some solution to this problem.
I am a Lifetime member of the NRA. I own a lot of guns and intend to keep them and keep shooting them, but this problem should be dealt with. pl