During an April 6 event at a Rock Hill restaurant, U.S. Rep Ralph Norman (R-Dist. 5), met with members of a local chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
The nationally-organized group included survivors of gun violence, all of whom live in District 5.
He listened to them make their case for what many in this region believe would be common-sense gun law reform -- universal background checks, closing loopholes that leave abused domestic partners vulnerable to gun violence, and other measures to keep weapons out of the hands of people likely to misuse them.
Then Norman pushed back. To make his point, Norman, who has a concealed weapon permit, pulled out his .38-caliber handgun, announced it was loaded and laid it on the table. Over the next several minutes, he told the group to observe that the gun was not magically levitating and firing.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Herald
Members of the group held their composure. Norman later said he didn’t think he offended anyone.
Some of those who attended later said he was wrong.
One woman said she was outraged her congressman would present a gun in front of people who were victims of gun-related trauma. When the incident was reported, and later debated on Facebook, Norman in a public post described the assembly as "a group with a radical agenda, funded by out-of-state groups, and hell bent on repealing the Second Amendment and banning guns."
He may be wrong again.
Under the heading of "What We Stand For," the organization's website has this message: "Moms Demand Action supports the 2nd Amendment, but we believe common-sense solutions can help decrease the escalating epidemic of gun violence that kills too many of our children and loved ones every day."
Readers can decide whether to believe them, but some local members also said they are gun owners, and voted for Norman.
The York County Solicitor's Office and State Law Enforcement Division said Norman didn't violate the law when he displayed the weapon. The interpretation of the law must include criminal intent, they said.
However, the S.C. statute spells out what is unacceptable handling of a handgun by a concealed weapon permit holder:
▪ Section 16-23-410of South Carolina law states it is illegal for anyone to "present or point at another person a loaded or unloaded firearm."
▪ Section 23-31-210 of the law states 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."
Norman used his handgun as a prop. He could have made the same point without the gun.
His argument is this: "Guns don't kill people. People do."
If you follow that argument's logic however, we still would take guns out of peoples' hands so people can't kill each other with guns. Taking away guns probably would not end murders, but it might lessen mass killings and spontaneous crimes of rage.
Ironically, Norman's reasoning might support the argument offered by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Their goal is to help end tragedies like the February mass school shooting in Florida.
In his own Facebook post, Norman wrote: "I welcome and encourage the conversation of solving the problem of innocent lives taken, ensuring our children's safety in schools, improving background checks and addressing our country's mental health issue."Local members of Moms Demand Action said their concerns at the April 6 gathering were based in real-life experience. Norman's reaction shows the need for clarity in gun legislation and how gun owners should behave.If displaying the gun is legal, maybe the issue also is about right vs. wrong. Norman is up for re-election in November. Voters can have their say on whether displaying the handgun was right or wrong.