Perhaps it’s technically the New York Times that’s saying a “flaw” is what allowed Roof, the Charleston church killer, to buy a gun. “Flaw” is the word used in the NYT headline. The actual communication from the FBI is summarized this way in the text:
A loophole in the system and an error by the F.B.I. allowed the man, Dylann Roof, to buy the .45-caliber handgun despite having previously admitted to drug possession, officials said.
The “error” by the FBI stands up to scrutiny as an actual error. The “loophole” in the background check system is another story. Here’s the extended summary from NYT:
Mr. Roof first tried to buy the gun on April 11, from a dealer in South Carolina. The F.B.I., which conducts background checks for gun sales, did not give the dealer approval to proceed with the purchase because the bureau needed to do more investigating about Mr. Roof’s s criminal history.
Under federal law, the F.B.I. has three days to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to deny the purchase. If the bureau cannot come up with an answer, the purchaser can return to the dealer and buy the gun.
In the case of Mr. Roof, the F.B.I. failed to gain access to a police report in which he admitted to having been in possession of a controlled substance, which would have disqualified him from purchasing the weapon. The F.B.I. said that confusion about where the arrest had occurred had prevented it from acquiring the arrest record in a timely fashion.