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Confederate flag debate eclipses one on gun control

In the near-week since a shooting rampage left nine African-American parishioners dead at the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, all eyes have turned to the Confederate Battle flag flying above the state capitol grounds. It’s the same flag featured prominently on a website purportedly linked to the shooter, Dylann Storm Roof, along with a bevy of white supremacist writings.

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But what about the semiautomatic handgun Roof confessed to using in last week’s shooting attack? While more than half a million people, lawmakers, and presidential candidates have called for the removal of the Confederate flag from government places, virtually no one has advocated for stronger gun control laws in the wake of the Charleston massacre.

Leading the charge now against the Confederate flag is South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who on Monday called for its removal from the capitol in Columbia. Though the flag represents “traditions that are noble” for many in the state, Haley, surrounded by a number of fellow Republican leaders, said in a press conference that it’s also “a deeply offensive symbol of a brutally oppressive past” for others.

Shortly after her remarks, Mississippi’s Republican speaker of the state House expressed a similar sentiment, saying that the Confederate battle emblem should be removed from his state’s flag — the only one still incorporating the image in full. “As a Christian,” Speaker Philip Gunn said, “I believe our state’s flag has become a point of offense that needs to be removed.”

Nearly every major GOP presidential contender has voiced support for Haley’s decision. But none — including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, and Donald Trump — responded to msnbc’s request for comment on whether the shooting indicated a need for stronger gun restrictions. Some have revealed their hands, however, in more unguarded moments.

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