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The FBI Could Have Stopped the Orlando Shooter, Why Didn't They?

Updated on June 21, 2016
FBI Director Paul Comey with Obama
FBI Director Paul Comey with Obama

The FBI can add people to the gun background check database on the recommendation of psychiatrists, mental health institutions and family members. Yet either it did not add the Orlando shooter Omar Mateen as a precaution, or it ignored the red flag raised as he attempted to purchase a weapon. Mateen had been of such concern to the FBI for his radical views that it interviewed him at least three times, and placed him on a watchlist for a period of time, according to the FBI.

A CNN report states:

“Individuals can also be added to the NICS index outside of potential gun sales, on the recommendation of psychiatrists, mental health institutions and family members.”

Mateen bought the high-capacity, high-velocity semi-automatic Sig Sauer rifle legally, according to the FBI, requiring him to enter and pass the background check in the FBI's databases, principally the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Index.

The news makes it implausible if not impossible that the FBI did not know, or could not have known, that the shooter was attempting to buy a weapon.

From Trump to Hillary we now hear cries of outrage that terror suspects on watchlists should not be allowed to buy guns, as if that were the problem. But that is not the problem. The problem is that a former terror watch suspect sailed through the FBI's own background check databases.

No rights would be violated by this precaution, which would not deny the subject the right to buy a weapon, and alert agents that a person of concern was attempting to buy arms. This would enable the investigation to be reopened and agents to spring into action.

The Orlando shooter had radical jihadi literature on his hard-drive, which would have been found had he been investigated coming up the the FBI's databases as trying to buy a gun. The FBI would also have found out that the shooter had made repeat trips to Disneyland, long seen as a potential terrorist target. This would have built a prosecutable case for conspiracy to commit terrorism. Mentally disturbed dupes have been prosecuted for far less, in the FBI's many well-reported entrapment schemes. In contrast to these, Mateen acted on his own, so far as we know, and the main help he got was the FBI doing nothing.

Aurora, Fort Hood, San Bernardino, Killeen, Newtown, we know the list goes on of mass shootings in which high velocity rifles were used.

Congress and the media are looking the other way and playing dumb by asking the wrong questions. Why weren't agents alerted by the background check?

After the Boston Marathon bombing it turned out the FBI knew Tamerlan Tsarnaev all along, that he was interviewed, and on a watchlist. That time they said the name was spelled differently in the terror database than on Tsarnaev's passport when he re-entered the country from Chechnya. This time it's the FBI which would have entered the name itself.

The question is not whether persons on a watchlist should be allowed their Second Amendment rights. The question is what exactly is going on at the FBI?

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