At a meeting with constituents on Friday, U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) pulled out a loaded gun and placed it on a table for several minutes. He argued after the fact that the firearm’s presence had made the attendees safer.
But that’s not what people who went to the event had to say about Norman’s bewildering action.
“Rep. Norman’s behavior today was a far cry from what responsible gun ownership looks like,” said Lori Freeman, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, who attended the event and spoke with Norman, according to the Washington Post.
Another attendee, Lori Carter, said, “I felt it was highly inappropriate for an elected official, honestly, and it almost felt like an intimidation tactic.”
There is a statute that makes it illegal to “present or point at another person a loaded or unloaded firearm,” and the South Carolina Democratic Party is calling for an investigation.
Asked later about the incident, Norman told the Post and Courier newspaper: “I’m not going to be a Gabby Giffords. I don’t mind dying, but whoever shoots me better shoot well, or I’m shooting back.”
Mark Kelly, Giffords’ husband, countered that Norman indeed is “no Gabby,” adding that “you pull out a gun when you are prepared and need to use it — not for a stunt.”
Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head — and miraculously survived — at a constituent event at a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Arizona in 2011. Norman’s argument is that if armed, he could have prevented an assassination attempt. Yet, facts at the scene in Tucson that day refute the “more guns are better” argument pushed by gun advocates like Norman.
Joe Zamudio, an armed bystander ran onto the scene with his safety off, saw a man with a gun and pushed him into the wall, thinking he was the shooter. But the man Zamudio thought was the shooter was just another bystander, also armed, who was actually attempting to subdue the actual shooter.
With so many guns already at the site of the shooting — and with the gunman giving no warning opening fire on Giffords, it is highly doubtful that an armed bystander — even a gun-toting congressman — could have affected the outcome.
It is hardly the first case in which a conservative politician has brandished or mishandled firearms in public. Here are a few of the many such cases.
Roy Moore draws a handgun at a rally
Senate candidate Roy Moore, during the primary race in last year’s special election to replace now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, was criticizing “completely false” ads that say he doesn’t “believe in the Second Amendment,” at a September rally. He pulled out his wife’s small handgun and said, “I believe in the Second Amendment.”
— ABC News (@ABC) September 26, 2017
The incident generated a complaint to the local police department, which said that it was not a crime, even though there is a law against possessing a firearm while taking part in a public rally. Because the Moore event was ticketed on private property, and therefore not a public event, it was not considered a misdemeanor. It is not known if the weapon was loaded at the time.
It was not the only time during that campaign that Moore pulled out his wife’s handgun at a political event; He did the same thing at a candidates’ forum in Valley, Alabama in August.
Mitch McConnell shows up to CPAC armed
According to a CNN report, which is not the Onion, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell strode onto the stage of 2014’s Conservative Political Action Conference holding a musket. He gave it to former Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) who was accepting the NRA’s “Courage Under Fire” lifetime achievement award.
McConnell was brandishing the weapon purely for PR purposes in a contested primary election, and to do the bidding of the NRA, even though he had not previously declared himself to be a hunter, shooter, or even gun owner. McConnell had, however, done plenty for the NRA and the gun industry at a policy level in the Senate over the years.
Virginia delegate accidentally fires his weapon in State Capitol building
In 2006, Delegate Jack Reid of Virginia attempted to unload his handgun in his office but instead he fired a round into a door. As he pulled the clip from the handle, attempting to put the gun away safely in a safe, the bullet actually hit a bulletproof vest hanging on the office door. No one was injured except for Reid, who got a cut from the gun’s slide as it snapped back. He said he carried the gun for protection.
Several Pennsylvania lawmakers carry weapons banned in the state legislature
Between a dozen and two dozen members of the Pennsylvania State House and Senate ignore rules that state, “firearms are prohibited from being carried in the state Capitol by anyone other than on-duty law enforcement officers.” Instead of storing their weapons with the Capitol Police like ordinary citizens wishing to enter the building, they carry handguns in the state capitol halls and on the House and Senate floors, according to the Caucus newspaper.
Colorado lawmaker forgot his loaded gun after a hearing on relaxing concealed-carry permits
In 2014, GOP State Representative Jared Wright left his loaded handgun in a bag following a hearing where he and his colleagues were discussing a bipartisan measure to make it easier to carry concealed weapons. A fellow lawmaker found the gun, notified the Sergeant-at-Arms, and the gun was quickly traced back to Wright, a former police officer, who apologized and promised to never carry his weapon inside the Capitol building again.
Texas candidate aims gun in 2014 ad with implicit threat to President Obama
In 2014, while running to be Lieutenant Governor of Texas, and Todd Staples aired an ad that depicted him aiming a rifle offscreen. In the ad, Staples said that then-President Barack Obama is “not a king, and Texans bow to no one.” He concluded: “So, Mr. President, if you still want to mess with Texas, we’ve got a saying for you: Come and take it.”
Brandishing guns in advertisements is actually somewhat common for conservative politicians, but combining implicit threats to the president with the candidate aiming the gun is noteworthy.
State lawmakers arrested for trying to bring loaded gun through airport security
Last December, Colorado State Rep. Lori Saine (R) attempted to go through security at Denver International Airport with a loaded handgun. Police arrested her on “suspicion of introducing a firearm into a transportation facility” and she even spent the night in jail. The affidavit said Saine “knowingly brought the handgun to the checkpoint” although her attorney insisted that it was clearly an accident. Prosecutors later said she would not be charged. In 2013, Texas State Rep. Drew Darby did the same thing in Austin, getting arrested for attempting to bring his loaded .380 caliber Ruger through security.
Missouri lawmaker offers to loan guns to State Capitol visitors
A Missouri state representative, angry with new rules that prevent visitors from bringing their weapons inside the state Capitol building, offered to loan guns to visitors who have a valid concealed carry permit. His explanation, posted on his Facebook page, read: “This is not Freedom and Liberty! This is not how citizens should be greeted when entering The People’s House, their Missouri State Capitol.”
New Hampshire lawmaker drops one of two guns during committee meeting
New Hampshire State Rep. Kyle Tasker, at the beginning of a 2012 committee meeting about an abortion bill, dropped one of the two handguns he wore in a shoulder holster. It did not go off, and Tasker explained that he inadvertently dropped the gun because he was “loopy” following a blood donation. That same year, on two other occasions, two other lawmakers also dropped their weapons on state house grounds.
Tasker no longer wears a gun because he is currently in prison, serving a three-to-ten year sentence following “a plea agreement on charges that he allegedly solicited a 14-year-old girl for sex and offered her drugs.”