A lawmaker from South Carolina pulled out his loaded pistol during a meeting with his constituents Friday to make a point about gun safety, according to advocacy group members who were present.
Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) placed the gun on a table for “several minutes” while arguing that the presence of the weapon in the room made his constituents safer, according to volunteers for the South Carolina chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
“I’m not going to be a Gabby Giffords,” Norman told the Post and Courier afterward, referring to the 2011 shooting of an Arizona congresswoman during a public appearance in the Tucson area. “I don’t mind dying, but whoever shoots me better shoot well, or I’m shooting back.”
Giffords’ husband, Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut and Navy veteran, replied in a statement Friday that “Congressman Norman is right — he’s no Gabby Giffords.”
“When I think of @GabbyGiffords, I think of courage and public service, not intimidating constituents,” Kelly also tweeted.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) called Norman’s comments about Giffords “inappropriate and inconsiderate.”
“I sincerely hope you never have to experience what my friend @gabbygiffords experienced,” Flake tweeted.
The spokesperson for Norman could not be immediately reached for comment by The Post.
The congressman told the Post and Courier, a Charleston, S.C., newspaper, that he pulled out the gun during a public meeting over breakfast at a Rock Hill diner to make the point that guns are dangerous only when they are in the hands of criminals. Norman, the holder of a concealed-carry permit, said he often has his guns with him in public.
The demonstration, he said, was intended to prove to constituents that “guns don’t shoot people, people shoot guns,” according to the Post and Courier. Norman told the attendees that if someone were to walk into the diner and begin shooting at them, he’d be able to protect them because of his gun.
Lori Freemon, a volunteer who attended the meeting, said in a news release that she felt unsafe when Norman displayed his firearm.
“Rep. Norman’s behavior today was a far cry from what responsible gun ownership looks like,” Freemon said.
Norman said he does not regret pulling out his gun — and in fact plans to conduct the same demonstration at other constituent meetings moving forward, according to the Post and Courier. Norman also said none of the attendees at Friday’s meeting jumped or appeared frightened by the gun.
“I’m tired of these liberals jumping on the guns themselves as if they are the cause of the problem,” he told the newspaper. “Guns are not the problem.”