Flowers and notes of hope and support from the community line the sidewalk, June 19, 2015 in front of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.
Photo by Stephen B. Morton/AP

Never blame the victims

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) announced on Monday that she wants to see the Confederate battle flag taken down from the state capitol grounds. But under state law, the decision isn’t entirely hers to make – the governor will need the cooperation of the Republican-run state legislature.
With this in mind, as we noted on Monday, the Post and Courier newspaper is maintaining a head-count, updated in real time, listing state lawmakers’ position on the issue. As of a few minutes ago, support for removing the flag appeared to have the necessary votes in the state Senate, and they’re nearing the threshold in the state House.
But it’s not unanimous. The Huffington Post flagged one South Carolina lawmaker who’s inclined to vote “no.”
South Carolina state Rep. Bill Chumley (R) told CNN he thinks the nine victims of a shooting in a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, “waited their turn to be shot.”
Chumley was defending the use of the Confederate flag at the South Carolina capitol grounds when he made the remarks, blaming “misuse and miseducation of the flag” for the debate over its use. Chumley argued access to guns, not the Confederate flag, is what South Carolina lawmakers should be focusing on in the aftermath of the massacre.
“These people sat in there and waited their turn to be shot,” Chumley said. “That’s sad. Somebody in there with a means of self-defense could’ve stopped this.”
TPM’s report added that Chumley, in the same interview, tried to explain that he’s representing his constituents who want the Confederate symbol to remain in place. “We’re focusing on the wrong thing here,” he said. “We need to be focusing on the nine families that are left and see that this doesn’t happen again.”
And if he’d just stopped there, his comments would have gone without notice. But the GOP lawmaker just kept going – suggesting the victims of a mass murder bear some responsibility for the death toll.
By any sane measure, they do not. It’s so easy for some to scrutinize a crisis situation after the fact, from a position of comfort, wondering why those literally facing the barrel of a gun didn’t act like state Rep. Bill Chumley preferred they act.
But the argument is devoid of any reason or decency. A white supremacist gunned down nine people in a church. A week later, chastising the victims, wondering aloud why unarmed churchgoers didn’t attack their attacker, is disgusting.
For South Carolina lawmakers who may be on the fence about this vote, it appears the question now becomes simple: do you plan to vote with Bill Chumley?