Politics & Government

'Acting like a bully': Challengers call out Rep. Norman on Rock Hill gun incident

From left, top: Ralph Norman (R), Archie Parnell (D), Mark Ali (D)
Bottom: Sidney Moore (D), Steve Lough (D), Michael Chandler (Constitution Party)
From left, top: Ralph Norman (R), Archie Parnell (D), Mark Ali (D) Bottom: Sidney Moore (D), Steve Lough (D), Michael Chandler (Constitution Party)

Several Democratic challengers have criticized Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill, after he displayed a loaded gun at a voter meet-and-greet last week in Rock Hill.

Archie Parnell, who went up against Norman in the June special election, one of the closest congressional races in South Carolina in 20 years, posted a video Monday night criticizing Norman.

"My opponent, Ralph Norman, recently made news for taking out a loaded gun and putting it on the table across from his constituents — a group of women who came to talk with him about gun violence," Parnell said in the video, which he released on Facebook. "He really did, that and he said he'd do it again."

Democrats have called for the State Law Enforcement Division and the attorney general's office to investigate the incident.

"Let me be clear — I support the Second Amendment, but what I do not support is acting like a bully to intimidate those you disagree with," Parnell said in his video. "That's exactly what's wrong with politics today."

Norman told The Herald Monday, during a stop at an Indian Land pharmacy, that he welcomed an investigation of his actions.

"I didn't break any laws at all," Norman said Monday. "I did it to prove a point."

Congressional candidate Archie Parnell, one of 4 seeking the Democratic nomination for the 5th District House race in November, released a video criticizing GOP Rep. Ralph Norman, who displayed a gun in Rock Hill Friday.

SLED and the attorney general's office announced Tuesday afternoon after reviewing the case that Norman will not face charges.

Norman said he carries a .38-caliber Smith and Wesson handgun. He said he placed it on the table during the "Coffee with your Congressman" event at a Rock Hill diner on Friday. He said he put it on the table to show a group of women with Moms Demand Action that a gun is not dangerous by itself.

Norman's Democratic challengers said they disagree with his actions.

Steve Lough, a former professional clown running for the U.S. House of Representatives, said he took offense to Norman's remarks on Gabby Giffords, a former U.S. Representative who survived being shot in the head at a public event.

Norman said Friday he wouldn't be a victim, or "another Gabby Giffords."

U.S. Congressman Ralph Norman defended taking out a gun at a meeting with constituents last week. Norman said he didn't break any laws. Officials from the S.C. Democratic Party said they have asked the state law enforcement division to investigate.

"Ralph, I heard when I got in this race that you were not very well liked, even by Republicans," Lough said in a Facebook post. "Now I can see why. How dare you make a crack like that about a survivor of gun violence? Where are your manners? Where were you raised, son?"

Lough said that when he heard about the gun incident, he wasn't even thinking about the legal issues.

"It's just bad manners," Lough told The Herald Tuesday. "And it doesn't help move the conversation forward, about what are we going to do about kids being scared about going to school."

Lough said he played football in high school and said that he noticed that the guys who bragged the most in the locker room tended to be the "weakest ones."

Another Democratic challenger, Mark Ali, a former undocumented immigrant running to represent South Carolina, said he supports the Second Amendment, but said Norman's actions weren't responsible.

"I think it was reprehensible, irresponsible and thoughtless for a lawmaker to do something like that," Ali said. "Especially sitting down with Moms Demand Action. It's just not the time and place to do something like that."

Another Democratic candidate, Sidney Moore, said he didn't think voters should be made to feel intimidated at public forums.

"I just can't understand the point that he intended to make," Moore said.

Parnell said he supports "common-sense" gun reform — and he understands why witnesses at the Friday public meeting might have been taken aback.

"I think that people need to be civil and decent with one another when they speak with one another and talk with one another," he said. "And demonstrable actions with guns can put people off sometimes. ... Putting myself in their shoes and I can see how that action — even though Congressman Norman said it was to make a point — can be perceived differently by other people and can put them off."

Parnell told The Herald Tuesday that Norman's action was not appropriate.

Parnell also said he was dismayed when he saw Norman's post on Facebook, calling Moms Demand Action a "radical" group.

The group has since said that it is non-partisan and respects the Second Amendment.

Parnell said he advocates for universal background checks and gun reform, but he respects the rights under the Second Amendment.

"I think most Americans feel the same way," Parnell said. "... We need common sense, and that's all this is."

Parnell, Lough, Ali and Moore will be facing off in the June 12 Democratic primary.

Michael Chandler of the Constitution Party is also running for the U.S. House of Representatives seat.

Norman and Chandler could not be immediately reached Tuesday for further comment.

Hannah Smoot: 803-329-4068, @hgsmoot
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