U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill, said there's no reason anyone should have been scared when he pulled out a loaded gun Friday morning at a meet and greet with voters.
"Guns are not the issue," he said.
Norman said he put the gun on the table to prove a point — that a gun by itself can't shoot someone.
"I'm just tired of the guns being blamed," he said. "I'm tired of the NRA being blamed. I'm tired of the police being blamed."
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Norman said a group of Mothers Demand Action attended his meeting at Rock Hill Diner on Cherry Road. He said they pressed him to support gun control legislation.
Norman said there are laws already on the books that need to be enforced first.
"I pulled it out to make a point that guns don't shoot," he said. "People shoot."
Norman said he put the gun on the restaurant table for "maybe a minute, or two minutes" and told the women they should have a gun.
"If someone walks into this restaurant shooting," he said he told them, "I'm going to shoot him. I'm going to protect you and everybody else in here."
He said as a Christian, he isn't worried about dying.
"But I'm going to take him with me," he said.
Norman, who said he has a concealed carry permit, said he carries a gun with him most of the time — except in Washington, D.C.
When asked if the gun was loaded, he said: "Absolutely, a gun without bullets is useless."
A Rock Hill Diner manager said he didn't see Norman with a gun, but the restaurant doesn't have a "no concealed weapons" policy.
A law enforcement official who asked not to be named stressed police do not recommend pulling out guns in restaurants.
The South Carolina law says a concealed weapon "must be carried in a manner that is hidden from public view in normal wear of clothing except when needed for self-defense, defense of others, and the protection of real or personal property."
Lori Freemon, local leader of Moms Demand Action, who was at the diner with three other moms in the group said she researched concealed carry permits and didn’t believe it was legal to display the firearm out in public.
“I didn’t have the courage to call out the congressman in front of everyone. ... I was thinking, why does he think he’s above the law, he’s a congressman.”
Freemon said Norman left the gun out on the table for 5 to 10 minutes.
“He told us it was loaded, and he kept asking us, do you feel safer now?” she said.
She said she felt angry at the time, because she said Norman didn’t know any of their histories with gun violence.
“We were kind of shocked and appalled,” she said.
She said anyone in the diner could have grabbed the gun.
“I didn’t think that was safe, and I didn’t think that was showing proper gun ownership," she said.
Norman said he bought his gun, a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson, in Rock Hill, and he said the process took about 45 minutes.
This isn't the last time he plans to display his gun, he said.
"I'm going to do it again. I'm going to use it as an example."