South Carolina massacre survivors demand GOP candidates talk about guns

Gun Rights

For the survivors of the 2015 gun massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Nikki Haley aren’t just failing to credibly handle the issue of gun violence. They’re rubbing salt in the wounds, according to a new article from The Washington Post.

The Republican presidential primary in South Carolina this upcoming Saturday has the congregation of the church—known as Mother Emanuel—in Charleston demanding better of Trump and Haley. The Rev. Eric S.C. Manning, senior pastor at Mother Emanuel, accused the two candidates of having a “lapse in memory” in their campaigning across the state this month. Manning said the two have refused to address the mass shooting by a self-proclaimed white supremacist. Nine people were killed and another person was injured during an evening Bible study. Instead of addressing the slaughter that rocked not just the Charleston community but also the nation, South Carolinians are hearing nonanswers from Haley and pro-gun bluster from Trump.

Trump spoke to the NRA this month, bragging about how he was “the best friend gun owners have ever had in the White House.” He boasted that during his term, ”nothing happened. And there was great pressure on me having to do with guns. We did nothing.” Just days after a deadly school shooting in Iowa last month, Trump told supporters, “[We] have to get over it, we have to move forward.” 

Hali Doctor, the 21-year-old daughter of Charleston victim DePayne Middleton-Doctor, told the Post that she could never “get over” her mother’s killing. 

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The larger betrayal is Haley’s, who was governor in South Carolina when the massacre happened. At the time, she dismissed talk of enacting any kind of gun control. “There is one person to blame here, a person filled with hate, a person that does not define South Carolina, and we are going to focus on that one person,” Haley said. After the school shooting in Nashville in March 2023, Haley said it was “lazy” to go after guns. And after the recent Iowa school shooting, she told voters at a CNN town hall, “We have to deal with the cancer that is mental health.”

Hali Doctor knows what she would say to that, should she come face to face with her former governor. “You can be mentally ill and hurt no one,” Doctor said. “What makes you a threat is the gun.”

In contrast, President Joe Biden spoke to worshippers at Mother Emanuel last month and blasted Trump. “We ‘have to get over it.’ My response is: We have to stop it so your children, your family, your friends can leave your home, walk the streets, go to stores, go to the grocery store, and go to church, to be safe from gun violence. There’s no excuse for this carnage.”

He has to keep talking about it ahead of November. He has to keep rallying the 52% of registered voters who call gun violence in America a “crisis.” He has to keep speaking to the 52% of registered voters who support gun control—a position that has had majority or plurality support in the Civiqs survey since shortly after the massacre in Charleston.

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Ohhhhh yeah! Democrats kicked ass and then some in Tuesday’s special election in New York, so of course we’re talking all about it on this week’s episode of “The Downballot.” Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard explain how Tom Suozzi’s win affects the math for Democrats’ plan to take back the House, then dive into the seemingly bottomless list of excuses Republicans have been making to handwave their defeat away. The bottom line: Suozzi effectively neutralized attacks on immigration—and abortion is still a huge loser for the GOP.

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