South Carolina state Rep. William Chumley derailed a CNN interview on Tuesday regarding the Confederate battle flag to complain that none of the victims in last week’s terrorist attack in Charleston was armed.
“We’re focusing on the wrong thing here. We need to be focusing on the nine families that are left and see that this doesn’t happen again,” Chumley, a Republican, told reporter Drew Griffin. “These people sat in there, waited their turn to be shot. That’s sad. But somebody in there with the means of self defense could have stopped this. And we’d have had less funerals than we’re having.”
“You’re turning this into a gun debate?” Griffin asked. “If those nine families asked you to take down that flag, would you do it?”
Chumley was identified as one of 10 state lawmakers who have opposed the notion of removing the flag from the Capitol, despite both nationwide criticism following the June 19 attack and Gov. Nikki Haley’s (R) remarks on Monday calling for the issue to be discussed.
“You said ‘guns,'” he told Griffin. “Why didn’t somebody, why didn’t somebody just do something? I mean, uh, you’ve got one skinny person shootin’ a gun, you know I mean, we need to take, and do what we can.”
“Are you asking that these people should have tackled him, these women should have fought him?” Griffin responded.
“I don’t know what, I don’t know what the answer was,” Chumley replied. “But I know it’s really horrible for nine people to be shot and I understand that [the suspect, Dylann Roof] reloaded his gun during the process.”
Chumley cracked a small smile at that point, adding, “That’s, that’s upsetting, very upsetting.”
The National Rifle Association quickly moved to distance itself last week from similar comments made by board member Charles Cotton, who linked the death of state Sen. Clementa Pinckney during the attack to his stance against a bill that would have allowed gun owners to bring their firearms to church.
Watch Chumley’s remarks, as aired on CNN on Tuesday, below.