In a stunt that South Carolina GOP Chairman Drew McKissick characterized as “hysterical,” Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman drew a loaded .38-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun and left it on the table during a “coffee with constituents” event on Friday.
The freshman congressman, who took the seat of Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney in 2017 following a special election, said he was attempting to make the oft–repeated argument from the right that guns aren’t dangerous, people are.
While brandishing his loaded weapon at a local diner in Rock Hill, SC, Norman also took a vicious swipe at Gabby Giffords, the former Democratic congresswoman from Arizona who was shot and severely wounded at a constituent event in 2011.
“I’m not going to be a Gabby Giffords,” Norman said, according to several media reports. He then told The Post and Courier, “I’m tired of these liberals jumping on the guns themselves as if they are the cause of the problem. Guns are not the problem.”
He added: “I don’t mind dying, but whoever shoots me better shoot well or I’m shooting back.”
According to the newspaper:
Norman said he pulled out the gun, pointed it away from the meeting attendees and put it on a table for about five minutes while they continued their conversation over breakfast.
The move, Norman said, was intended to prove “guns don’t shoot people; people shoot guns.”
Norman is a state concealed carry permit holder and said he regularly brings his gun with him when out in public.
Lori Freemon, a local volunteer for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America who was at the meeting to discuss measures to protect citizens from gun violence, said she felt “unsafe” when Norman “insisted on showing us his loaded gun and keeping it out on the table for much of our conversation.”
Norman vowed to continue pulling out his gun at future constituent events.
As expected, state Republicans thought the congressman’s behavior was hilarious.
“Hysterical to see liberals freak out over @RalphNorman accurately demonstrating that guns really are inanimate objects,” state Republican Chairman Drew McKissick tweeted.
In a statement reported by The Post and Courier, Giffords’ husband Mark Kelly, a Navy veteran and retired NASA astronaut, said, “Congressman Norman is right – he’s no Gabby Giffords.”
“Americans are increasingly faced with a stark choice: leaders like Gabby, who work hard together to find solutions to problems, or extremists like the NRA and Congressman Norman, who rely on intimidation tactics and perpetuating fear,” he added.
On Twitter, Kelly said: “When I think of @GabbyGiffords, I think of courage and public service, not intimidating constituents. You’re no Gabby, @RepRalphNorman. You pull out a gun when you are prepared and need to use it – not for a stunt.”
Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, from AZ, said Norman’s comments were “inappropriate and inconsiderate.”
“I sincerely hope you never have to experience what my friend @gabbygiffords experienced,” Flake tweeted. “But 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.”
Norman is up for reelection in South Carolina’s 5th congressional district in the upcoming November elections. Four Democrats have filed to run against him, according to The Post and Courier.