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SC lawmaker monitored by police after receiving shooting threat over gun bill

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Freedom Action Network post about Peter McCoy

A conservative group called the Freedom Action Network posted on Facebook blaming Rep. Peter McCoy, R-Charleston, of holding up a bill to allow people to carry handguns without a permit in South Carolina. It resulted in one commenter asking whether they should shoot McCoy. 

COLUMBIA — A Charleston lawmaker's home is being watched by police after a Facebook commenter threatened to shoot him over a bill that would allow people to carry handguns in the state without a permit. 

The commenter was expressing frustration at state Rep. Peter McCoy, a Charleston Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, because the pro-gun legislation has not advanced in the Statehouse this year. 

"Totally sucks that one guy has that much control. Maybe we should shoot him?" the comment read.

The ominous note was written after a group called Freedom Action Network of South Carolina blamed McCoy on Facebook for holding up the bill in his committee. The group called McCoy the "#1 enemy of restoring our gun rights." 

The Freedom Action Network already deleted the shooting threat from their Facebook page by Monday. 

"Under no circumstance do we advocate even the hint of a threat of violence," said Dave Scwharts, the president of Freedom Action Network. "We disagree with Peter on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens, but in no way do we wish him or his family any harm of any kind." 

The question of shooting a sitting state lawmaker wasn't the only hostile remark made on the site. Other commenters also took aim at McCoy, an eight-year veteran of the Statehouse, who was a finalist to become the U.S. Attorney for South Carolina last year. 

Among the messages:

"McCoy needs a 'come to Jesus talking to' and a serious one."

"Get the bill passed or look at your future." 

"He needs a behind the barn talking to!" 

The messages were threatening enough that McCoy, a father of three, has taken a long list of precautions.

McCoy said he beefed up security at his law office in Charleston. He warned his legislative staff in the Statehouse in Columbia. He asked the State Law Enforcement Division to investigate, and he met with the Charleston County Sheriff's Office to ask for deputies to monitor his home. 

The sheriff's office confirmed they are watching McCoy's residence. 

"Things that are said like that, you have to take seriously," McCoy said Monday. "I don't know whether this guy's statement will spark action by someone else. I don't know whether he really means it."

"People think they can say anything behind a keyboard and it won't have consequences," McCoy added. "I'm sorry, but I take every comment very seriously today."

McCoy views the post as part of a larger problem on social media, where he noted combative Facebook and Twitter posts can lead to other caustic comments that verge toward violence. 

"It is sad and pathetic that politics has come to this, where people can't have a disagreement on an issue and talk about it and work through it," he said. "It's going to discourage good people from wanting to serve." 

Other state lawmakers were deeply concerned that someone would threaten one of their colleagues over a bill.  

"My friend and colleague Peter McCoy is one of the most decent, honorable men that I know and serve alongside. Folks, take a deep breath," Rep. Gary Clary, R-Clemson, wrote on Twitter. "He is a father, husband, son and friend to many. This is the insanity of today’s politics." 

Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, called the threat appalling, and he said the Freedom Action Network needs to accept some of the blame for whipping up this type of behavior online. 

"I think if you look at that Facebook group and others like it, you see a constant attempt to demean and discredit," Stavrinakis said. "To me, just saying that you didn't mean it doesn't suffice. I think these groups need to get a handle on what they are saying and what they are doing."

Meanwhile, Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, R-Murrells Inlet, announced late Monday that he canceled a hearing on a similar gun bill in the Senate due to the threat leveled against McCoy. 

"Even though I’m supportive of open carry ideals, I will not stand by and allow threats to my friends," he wrote on Twitter. 

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Reach Andrew Brown at 843-708-1830 or follow him on Twitter @andy_ed_brown.

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