Murdering Journalist Passed Background Checks, Week-Long Wait

Vester Lee Flanagan, the former journalist who murdered two of his former colleagues and seriously injured the woman they were interviewing at Smith Mountain Lake, legally obtained the Glock 19 9mm handgun used in the attack from a Virginia FFL after he put a deposit down on the pistol, waited a week, after passed multiple background checks.


Thomas Faison, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said Wednesday investigators had recovered a Glock 19 pistol that belonged to Flanagan.

Faison said the gun had been purchased “weeks ago,” and that he had apparently passed a required background check. Flanagan also had a second gun, Faison added.

It’s worth noting that the background checks Flanagan passed went beyond the standard federal NICS background check administered by the FBI, and included the extensive VCheck system:

The purchaser’s name and certain personal descriptive data are immediately entered into a computer system at the dealer location or while the dealer remains on the telephone with the FTC. The design of this program eliminates traditional waiting periods by electronically accessing criminal records and “wanted” databases at the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and the Virginia Criminal Records Exchange (CCRE) and provides an instantaneous approval or delay determination to the firearms dealer concerning the firearms sale or transfer.   Please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions for more information on firearms purchase applications placed in a status of delay.

National and state databases are accessed simultaneously at the time of transaction. Four are maintained by the Virginia Department of State Police, accessible by the Virginia Criminal Information Network (VCIN): Virginia’s wanted and missing persons files and protective orders, Virginia’s criminal history record files, and Virginia’s database of adjudications of legal incompetence and incapacity, involuntary commitments to mental institutions for inpatient or outpatient treatment.

The fifth database accessed during this check is the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) which searches the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) consisting of the Wanted Persons File, Protection Order File, Interstate Identification Index (III), Deported Felons File, US Secret Service Protective File, Foreign Fugitive File, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms’ Violent Felon File, and NICS indexes: Illegal/Unlawful Aliens File, Mental Defectives/Commitments File, Dishonorable Discharges, Citizenship Renunciants, Controlled Substance Abuse File and Denied Persons File.

If an identification is not made in one or more of these files, the computer responds “APPROVED” and a unique computer-generated approval number is provided to the firearms dealer for the transaction. The firearm may be transferred upon the dealer’s receipt of the approval number.  If an identification is made, the computer responds “DELAYED” and review of the information/record is required by the State Police Firearms Transaction Center to determine probable identification and lawful eligibility of the prospective firearms purchaser.  The firearms dealer is notified immediately upon a final determination of eligibility.

A prospective firearms purchaser must provide written consent permitting the firearms dealer to initiate a CHRI check to determine if the purchaser is eligible to purchase or possess a firearm. It is unlawful for any person to willfully and intentionally make a false statement on the required consent form. Firearms dealers are required by law to collect a fee of $2.00 from Virginia residents for every transaction which requires a criminal history record information (CHRI) check and a fee of $5.00 from non-Virginia residents. These fees are sent to the State Police for transmittal to the General Funds of the Commonwealth to assist in the cost of conducting the record checks.


The state-level system instituted in Virginia existed before the federal NICS program, was strengthened to comply with NICS, that was strengthened again after the Virginia Tech massacre.

Even with these heightened checks, the mass killer who attacked the Washington Navy Yard in 2013 was able to pass these checks, as was Flanagan.

The simple fact of the matter is that background checks can only identify those people with a mental health or criminal history. They can never function as a Minority Report-style “pre-crime” system.

Those dishonest politicians who began screaming for more gun control laws before the shooter was even captured—Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, future felon Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama—view these killings as an excuse to infringe further upon your rights, pushing incrementally forward towards their fantasy of gun prohibition.

Background checks didn’t work. A self-imposed waiting was ineffective (indeed, Flanagan had multiple firearms, and waited more than two months after obtaining the Glock to carry out his attack).

Perhaps what we need isn’t more gun control, but a culture that doesn’t glorify violence in the media, and doesn’t promote racial and sexual tensions that numerous murderers are using as excuses for their crimes.

We have a criminal problem, not a gun problem.


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