Friday, April 6, 2018

S.C. congressman pulled a gun at a meeting about gun laws today, explaining "I'm not going to be a Gabby Giffords"

Rep. Norman enjoyed a 93% rating from the NRA in 2017

Posted by Sam Spence and Adam Manno on Fri, Apr 6, 2018 at 7:37 PM

Republican Congressman Ralph Norman from the Upstate pulled out a loaded pistol during a meeting with gun control advocates Friday morning, upsetting at least one woman who said she felt "unsafe" by her representative's actions.

The brandishing took place during a "coffee with constituents meeting" hosted by Rep. Ralph Norman, 64, a Republican from Rock Hill representing South Carolina's 5th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Lori Freeman, a volunteer group leader with Moms Demand Action in Fort Mill, said she found out about the meeting on the congressman's Facebook page and decided to go after he rebuffed a previous meeting request on the heels of the February shooting of 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Fla.

click to enlarge Fifth Congressional District Rep. Ralph Norman - U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
  • U.S. House of Representatives
  • Fifth Congressional District Rep. Ralph Norman
Freeman thinks Norman might have been encouraged to take out his weapon by another constituent who was at the table Friday morning.

"This gentleman offered up that he was concealed carrying, and he asked if we felt safer because he was concealed carry," Freeman said in a phone interview with CP. "Once the gentleman said he was concealed carrying, that’s when [Rep. Norman] reached into his blazer. He pulled his gun out, told us it was loaded, put it on the table, and let it sit there for five to 10 minutes."

Norman told the Post & Courier that he pulled out his loaded .38 caliber Smith & Wesson to prove that "guns don't shoot people, people shoot guns."

"I'm not going to be a Gabby Giffords," Norman told the paper, referencing the former Arizona congresswoman who was shot in the head during a constituent meeting outside a Tucson-area grocery store in January 2011. "I don't mind dying, but whoever shoots me better shoot well or I'm shooting back," Norman said.

"Honestly it was just a strange feeling," Freeman said about Friday's meeting. "I don’t know that I felt scared. I was trying to figure out if he was using it as an intimidation factor or to have some kind of bravado. I kind of felt angry more than I felt scared, I felt very angry that he was doing that to us. I felt that he didn’t know our history, if any of us were survivors of gun or domestic violence, if anyone may have also had a criminal history."

Freeman maintains that both of her encounters with Rep. Norman have been mostly pleasant, and that he even expressed support for a "red flag law," which would allow family members or law enforcement to temporarily restrict gun purchases to anyone deemed to pose a danger to themselves or others.

Gun control advocates argue that such a measure might have prevented the Parkland shooting, while critics say that it infringes on civil liberties. The law is currently on the books in five states: Connecticut, Indiana, California, Washington, and Oregon, according to CNN.

Freeman says she might sit down with Rep. Norman again if the freshman congressman, who enjoys a 93% rating from the NRA in 2017 according to votesmart.org, shows a hint of progress on gun reform.

Captain Mark Kelly, co-founder of the gun safety group Giffords, named for his wife Gabby, issued a statement shortly after P&C's story.

"Congressman Norman is right – he's no Gabby Giffords," Kelly wrote. "And what this country needs are more leaders like Gabby Giffords. As a Congresswoman, Gabby worked with her neighbors and across party lines to solve problems. Since the shooting, she’s dedicated her life to finding solutions to stop the epidemic of gun violence that leaves over 100,000 Americans shot every year ... For our kids’ sake, let’s show our leaders we expect them to behave more like Gabby and less like Congressman Norman."

Norman narrowly won the special election to fill the seat left by Mick Mulvaney's move into the executive branch last year. Norman won just 51 percent of the district vote against Democrat Archie Parnell, who is among those challenging Norman again in this year's midterm election.


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