INDIAN LAND, S.C. - U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) has taken heat after an incident at the Rock Hill Diner on Cherry Road Friday.
While meeting with constituents, Norman took a loaded gun from his jacket and set it on a table. He said he did it to make a point that a gun, by itself, can't harm anyone.
"Yes, it was the right thing to do. I'm not apologizing for this," he said Monday.
He said the pistol was set on the table in front of him, pointed away from people.
“I pulled the gun out, presented it on the counter and they didn't say anything. They didn't jump up, and I put it back in my pocket," he said.
Norman disputes claims that some people in the restaurant were frightened by the incident.
The state Democratic Party sent a formal written request Monday to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division seeking a police investigation.
A second letter was sent to 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett asking for an investigation and felony charges to be filed against Norman.
Part of the letter to SLED said that Norman "presented his loaded firearm without an imminent threat in a public setting" and it "violated South Carolina code and also possibly violated the terms of his concealed-weapons permit."
His Democrat challenger for Congress, Archie Parnell, said on his Facebook page that "by brandishing a gun during a meeting with constituents and making insulting comments about Gabby Giffords, he not only embarrassed himself but our great state."
The Giffords comment referred to Norman saying, ''I’m not going to be a Gabby Giffords," the former Democratic congresswoman from Arizona who was shot outside a store in 2011.
Norman called her a hero Monday, saying he meant no disrespect. Norman said he was trying to say that if someone with Giffords was armed, that day might have been different.
"I believe to stop a bad guy with a gun, you have a good guy with a gun," he said. "I believe all law-abiding citizens should carry."
Norman said he welcomes a possible criminal investigation.
“Let them investigate all they want," he said.
Norman said the Democratic Party is trying to make political gains by making this an issue.
SLED officials said Monday that the agency had received the letter from Democrats and were reviewing it.
In a statement Tuesday, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said he will not pursue any charges.
"As Chief Prosecutor of South Carolina, the Office of the Attorney General has concluded that the actions of the Congressman do not warrant criminal prosecution and should not be pursued further. Some have complained about the Congressman's actions. However, our conclusion must be based upon the law and sound prosecutorial discretion. In this case, this is not a prosecutable offense," he said.
The South Carolina Democratic Party released this statement:
"According to Section 16-23-410 of the South Carolina code, “it is unlawful for a person to present or point at another person a loaded or unloaded firearm'...
“By his own admission, US Rep Ralph Norman brandished a loaded gun in a public setting on Friday to make a point. Not only were his actions irresponsible and dangerous - they were illegal.
"As any truly responsible gun owner knows and as the statute says, if you have a concealed carry permit, you cannot brandish your weapon without an imminent threat. It's dangerous and it's illegal. And today Congressman Norman showed us that he's anything but responsible,' said South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson. "This is a felony offense and punishable by up to five years in prison. That's why I will be sending an official request to SLED to investigate Congressman Norman's dangerous actions.
“Chairman Robertson continued, "Rep. Norman only did this because he barely got elected the first time and needs votes. He's worried about his campaign. This was a stunt and he should be punished for violating the law. I hope law enforcement moves swiftly to resolve the matter. It didn't work for Roy Moore and it won't work for Ralph Norman."
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