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Take Down The Flag

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After Charleston, New Polling Finds Americans Want Action On Confederate Flag And Gun Safety

In the wake of last week’s shooting at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, new polling shows that GOP candidates’ murky positions on the cause of the tragedy and the presence of the Confederate flag are increasingly out-of-touch with the American people. The poll, commissioned for the Center for American Progress Action Fund by Public Policy Polling, found that most Americans view the shooting as a hate crime and support steps to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. Most Americans also support removing the Confederate flag from government buildings like South Carolina’s capitol. And as many candidates and elected officials dance around important debates taking place around the shooting, only seven percent of Americans think last week’s shooting was neither a hate crime nor a terrorist attack, according to the poll. Here are some of the key findings:

  • 69 percent view last week’s massacre as a hate crime. Ninety percent say race played some role, including 56 percent who say race played a dominant role in the shooting. Only seven percent say the shooting was neither a hate crime nor terrorism.
  • 75 percent of Americans believe places of worship should have the right to bar people from carrying guns on their property.
  • 90 percent of Americans support criminal background checks for all gun sales. Support for background checks has been high for some time, and two thirds think we should focus more on keeping guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous or mentally ill people. Seventy-four percent think Dylan Roof’s previous criminal charge should have prevented him from accessing a gun.
  • Only 1-in-5 Americans support flying the Confederate flag at government buildings, as the debate over the flag flying at the South Carolina state capitol stands central to conversation around Charleston.
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Many GOP presidential candidates and lawmakers obscured their opinion on the flag this weekend, claiming it’s a decision that should be left to the state. That changed to an extent this afternoon, when South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and both US Senators from the state Lindsey Graham (R) and Sen. Tim Scott (R) called for the removal of the Confederate flag. In a press conference this afternoon, Gov. Haley said, “It’s time to move the flag from the Capitol grounds” and threatened to call South Carolina legislators in for a special session of the legislature if they did not take action soon. Actually, it’s long past time the flag was removed — but this is still an important step that deserves recognition. A slew of Republican candidates and lawmakers lent their support to take it down after Gov. Haley spoke.

Two-thirds of Americans oppose flying the confederate flag on government buildings, the CAP Action poll found. More than 522,000 people have signed a MoveOn petition to remove the flag and nearly 50,000 have signed a Color of Change petition to remove the flag.

BOTTOM LINE: While it’s taken many GOP lawmakers and presidential hopefuls too long to call for the removal of the Confederate flag on state property, the announcements by Gov. Nikki Haley and others are still an important step forward. But in response to the shooting, that is not the only step we need to take. Americans’ also demand meaningful action to prevent gun violence in our communities.

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