Rep. Ralph Norman on Monday continued defending himself from criticism for removing his handgun from his blazer jacket and placing it on the table at a “coffee with constituents” event in South Carolina on Friday.
“Two days in a row I’ve had front-page news question the legality of what I did,” Norman said on Fox News Monday morning. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”
He said he showed the pistol to constituents wearing red shirts for the gun control group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America so that they would see that the gun “doesn't shoot by itself.”
“It takes a person behind it,” the Palmetto State Republican said.
At the diner in Rock Hill, Norman defended groups that have faced intense scrutiny as mass shootings continue to plague the country.
“I’m tired of the police being demonized. I’m tired of the NRA being demonized. And I’m tired of guns in and of themselves being demonized as the problem,” Norman told constituents, he said Monday.
Norman said he sat with the people in Moms Demand Action shirts even though he could have chosen to sit with other constituents with whom he shares more common political ground.
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 five to 10 minutes before Norman retreieved 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.”
The South Carolina Democratic Party has asked state authorities to pull Norman’s concealed-carry permit and investigate the incident. It is illegal to “present or point” a firearm at someone, per state law.
“You’ve got a Republican congressman, who should know the state law, breaking the law or saying, ‘This law doesn’t affect me because I’m a legislator,’” Trav Robertson, the chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, told The Times. “We’re not going to let this drop.”
Norman pushed back, dismissing the Democrats' claims as a ridiculous ploy to try to embarrass him.
“It is sad and disappointing that national gun control groups stoop to this sort of backhanded tactic to push their radical agenda,” he said in a statement over the weekend defending his actions.
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