The South Carolina attorney general and State Law Enforcement Division will not file charges against Rep. Ralph Norman for laying his loaded handgun on a diner table at a “coffee with constituents” event in Rock Hill, South Carolina, last Friday.
Speculation simmered over the weekend and earlier this week that Norman could face prosecution for the stunt, which was intended to show a group of activists from the gun control group Moms Demand Action on Gun Sense in America that the gun “doesn’t shoot by itself,” he said Monday.
Norman’s actions did not constitute a crime, according to state officials.
“Some have complained about the Congressman’s actions,” Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office said in a statement Tuesday, multiple local outlets reported. “However, our conclusion must be based upon the law and sound prosecutorial discretion. In this case, this is not a prosecutable offense.”
Wilson issued the statement after consulting with 16th Circuit Solicitor, Kevin Brackett, who also declined to press charges.
Brackett said Monday he would recuse himself of any investigation into the matter due to his longtime friendship with the first-term Republican, but added he didn’t think Norman had any “criminal intent.”
The South Carolina Democratic Party had sent a letter to SLED and Wilson asking them to investigate Norman’s actions, saying he could only pull out his gun if he planned to use it.
Wilson sided with Brackett.
“Although South Carolina law allows the carrying of a handgun only in certain authorized circumstances, such as compliance with the CWP law, we agree with Solicitor Brackett that there is no prosecutable offense under the undisputed circumstances of this incident,” the attorney general said in his statement.
Wilson’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.
Norman sat with the Moms Demand Action activists at the “coffee with constituents” breakfast last Friday even though he could have chosen to sit with other constituents with whom he shares more common political ground, he said on Fox News Monday.
The group and congressman discussed working together on domestic abuse legislation before the conversation turned to guns.
“Ralph, don’t you carry a gun?” a man sitting in front of Norman asked. “Absolutely I do,” Norman said.
The congressman then reached into the inside pocket of his blazer and removed the gun, which was loaded. He laid it on the table, pointed away from anyone. It remained there for at least five minutes before Norman retrieved it.
While Norman considered the gesture an opportunity to inform people who have had less experience with and exposure to guns, some present at the event interpreted it as intimidation.
“As I was sitting there, I was thinking, ‘I don’t think what he’s doing is legal,’” Lori Freemon, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action, told The New York Times on Saturday.
“I was very angry,” Freemon, 44, said. “I felt like it was a move to intimidate.”