The Federal Bureau of Investigation will add more than 400 million new records to the database used to vet gun buyers, according to a report this week from the Trace.
The National Data Exchange, aka N-DEx, contains incident and arrest reports, probation and parole documents, according to the report — a trove of information capable of preventing questionable gun transfers from proceeding, such as in the case of the Charleston church shooter.
“The idea that the FBI would have info in a database that would prohibit a gun transaction — but not make it available to the background check examiners — just doesn’t make sense,” said Frank Campbell, a Department of Justice lawyer who helped set up the National Instant Criminal Background Check System in the 1990s, during an interview with the Trace.
With access to N-DEx, investigators working the day in April 2015 when convicted shooter Dylann Roof bought a Glock handgun from a dealer in South Carolina would have seen arrest records where he admitted guilt for drug possession two months prior — an offense barring him from owning guns. Instead, agents could only see an arrest and were unable to narrow down the specifics of the incident within the three-day waiting period allotted for flagged checks. The dealer moved forward with the sale and two months later, Roof — fueled by racism — murdered nine parishioners at a historically-black church in Charleston.
Stephen Morris headed the FBI’s background check division at the time of the attack. He told The Trace adding N-DEx, a process that will likely take up to two years, makes complete sense — and should have been done a long time ago. “At the end of the day, you’re going to get some quicker decisions and that’s a benefit,” Morris said.
Nearly 41 percent of the 120,000 denials in 2016 comprised applicants convicted a crime punishable by more than one year in prison — or two years for a misdemeanor. Another 20 percent of applicants were denied as “fugitives from justice.” About 9 percent of denials were related to substance abuse, according to a federal report released last year.