Rep. Ralph Norman, a Republican from South Carolina, apparently thought that the best thing he could do while meeting with constituents at a diner Friday was to pull out his loaded .38-caliber handgun and place it on the table for several minutes. Why? He wanted to make a point that guns are only dangerous if criminals have them.
“I pulled it out to make a point that guns don’t shoot,” he said. “People shoot.” Norman is “tired of the guns being blamed.”
Volunteers for the South Carolina chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America said that Norman argued that they were actually safer with the gun in the room. “If someone walks into this restaurant shooting,” Norman said he told constituents, “I’m going to shoot him. I’m going to protect you and everybody else in here.”
That’s not quite how those in attendance saw it. “Rep. Norman’s behavior today was a far cry from what responsible gun ownership looks like. I had looked forward to a respectful dialogue with my representative about common-sense gun violence prevention policies,” said Lori Freemon, volunteer with the South Carolina chapter of Moms Demand Action for gun Sense in America. “Instead, I felt unsafe when he insisted on showing us his loaded gun and keeping it out on the table for much of our conversation.”
Despite the criticism, Norman insisted he’s not backing own. “I’m not going to be a Gabby Giffords,” Norman told the Post and Courier afterward, referring to the former Arizona Democratic congresswoman who was shot outside a grocery store during a meeting with constituents in 2011. “I don’t mind dying, but whoever shoots me better shoot well or I’m shooting back.”
Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut who is married to Giffords, issued a statement saying that “Congressman Norman is right—he’s no Gabby Giffords.” In a tweet he also said that “When I think of @GabbyGiffords, I think of courage and public service, not intimidating constituents.”
Kelly was hardly the only one to criticize Norman. Sen. Jeff Flake from Arizona also blasted the South Carolina lawmaker for his words about Giffords. “To suggest that she might have avoided being shot had she carried a weapon as she spoke to constituents that morning is inappropriate and inconsiderate,” Flake wrote.