Families of Dylann Roof’s victims can sue the government

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s decision and held that families of the victims who lost their lives when White Supremacist Dylann Roof shot and killed them during Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015 can sue the government for negligence.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel dismissed the survivors’ and victims’ lawsuits — 16 of them in all — because the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which set up the federal background check system, gives the government immunity in most situations when it fails to keep weapons from the wrong hands.

But on Friday the federal appeals court disagreed. A three-judge panel in Richmond, Va., sent the case back for further consideration, writing that the Brady Act does not shield the federal government as a whole from the now-consolidated lawsuit. It protects only the actions of individual employees, the ruling said.

A few days before his 21st birthday, Roof went to a gun store to purchase the .45-caliber Glock pistol he used during the mass shooting. He underwent the required background check but federal authorities never responded to it. They didn’t deny nor approve the sale; they simply did not respond. After the three day waiting period, the store employee sold Roof the gun.

Roof had been arrested on a felony drug charge six weeks before killing his victims. The arrest would have prevented him from purchasing the gun.

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