Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

The federal government will pay $88 million to survivors and families of those killed in the racist rampage at Emanuel AME Church in 2015. But six years and two presidents later, the issue in U.S. and state law that allowed Dylann Roof to buy a gun remains untouched.

Our government’s inaction on the Charleston loophole is shameful. Every single day that passes is another chance it could happen again.

We cannot let that happen. Lawmakers: Fix the Charleston loophole.

Fourteen defendants in the civil suit against the U.S. Department of Justice will split the settlement agreed to last Thursday in Washington, D.C. — a total of $25 million for survivors and $63 million for families of those killed.

When Roof walked into a West Columbia gun shop to buy the Glock pistol he would use in Charleston, the purchase should have been stopped by FBI investigators. But clerical mistakes and lax gun laws meant that after three days, without hearing otherwise, the shop could legally sell Roof the gun — and it did. Shortly after the shooting, then-FBI Director James Comey admitted the system did not provide the safeguards it should have.

Roof awaits the death penalty in an Indiana federal prison.

“Since the day of the shooting, the Justice Department has sought to bring justice to the community, first by a successful hate crime prosecution and today by settling civil claims,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

No amount of money will fix the systemic issues that led a hate-filled man, deluded by extremist propaganda, to sit amongst worshippers and start killing.

But the settlement is at least a statement against white supremacy, said attorney and former state Rep. Bakari Sellers at a press conference last week. He thanked the Justice Department “for having the audacity and the gall and the fortitude to stand up to white supremacists and terrorists in this country.”

Since 2015, hate crimes have increased in South Carolina, according to the FBI. S.C. gun checks in 2020 spiked to over 530,000, and this year have already eclipsed 2019 numbers.

Yet with so much hate and so many guns, it is unconscionable that the loophole remains intact. But it does. The National Rifle Association’s (NRA) lobbying arm even calls the loophole “a necessary component” of American gun laws, passing blame to other agencies. The NRA remains a powerful force among conservatives, despite its leaders proving to be gullible puppets for Russian spies ahead of the 2016 election.

The settlement itself doesn’t mark any change for that law, but it does show the need for confidence in the justice system, according to Charleston attorney Mullins McLeod, also a member of the high-powered legal team behind the victims and survivors.

“Financial restitution is not justice,” state Rep. J.A. Moore said in a statement. “Real justice will occur when the hate that drove Dylann Roof to commit that terrible act — which took away my sister — is driven from our society.”

“The Charleston loophole is still open. I will keep fighting to end it,” he said.

Moore will keep up the fight. Slain S.C. Sen. Clementa Pinckney’s widow Jennifer and daughters Eliana and Malana will keep fighting. 

The question is, how much longer before our lawmakers listen and act? How much longer do they have to fight? Keep the horror from happening again by closing the loophole.

Stay cool. Support City Paper.

City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.