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U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman dismisses 'political' request for investigation into gun incident

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Norman

U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill, outside a CVS pharmacy in Indian Land on April 9, 2017. Jamie Lovegrove/Staff

INDIAN LAND — After South Carolina Democrats requested an investigation Monday into U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman's decision to pull out a loaded gun during a meet-and-greet with constituents, the Rock Hill Republican insisted he did not break any laws.

"It's all political," Norman told reporters before a tour of a local CVS pharmacy. "I'm not apologizing for something that I did nothing wrong on. It was done to present a point."

Norman also said he was not disparaging former Democratic congresswoman Gabby Giffords when he said in a Friday interview with The Post and Courier he is "not going to be Gabby Giffords."

Giffords was shot and severely wounded outside a grocery store in her home state of Arizona during a constituent gathering in 2011.

"Gabby Giffords is a hero. She's a survivor," Norman said Monday. "All I meant by that was that, had somebody been at her rally where she was shot and had saw them pull out the gun, they would have taken care of it. They would have shot whoever shot Gabby Giffords."

Norman's latest comments came less than an hour after S.C. Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson sent a letter to State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel requesting an investigation into the incident.

SLED spokesman Thom Berry said the agency had received the letter and is reviewing it. If the agency decides to open an investigation, Norman said he will cooperate.

"Congressman Norman has important questions to answer for law enforcement and the people of the 5th District," Robertson said. "Does he feel it's appropriate to intimidate his constituents to make a point?"

The Democrats pointed to a statute in South Carolina law that says it is illegal to "to present or point at another person a loaded or unloaded firearm."

Robertson also sent a letter to 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett requesting he file felony charges against Norman.

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Brackett recused himself from the case Monday due to his personal friendship with Norman, but he told Robertson he would not prosecute any charges if he were required to make the decision.

"I do not believe there was any criminal intent on the part of Congressman Norman and while some have reasonably questioned the wisdom of displaying a firearm under these circumstances, this does not a crime make," Brackett said.

Norman called The Rock Hill Herald "fake news" for a headline over the weekend that said he "pulled out" a loaded gun. The Post and Courier used the same phrase.

"The connotation is I pulled it on somebody," Norman said. "I didn't do that. I presented a gun to make a point." That point was about gun safety in the hands of someone with proper gun respect and skills.

While Norman said he has "no regrets" about the move, he walked back his comment from Friday that he may present his gun again at future public events.

"I proved the point that an inanimate object like a gun does not cause a problem, it's the people behind it, just like an airplane doesn't decide it's going to go take off from an airport and fly into buildings," Norman said. "So the point's been proven."

S.C. GOP Chairman Drew McKissick came to Norman's defense and said he has no concerns that one of the state's six Republican congressman could be convicted of a crime.

"Never let it be said that the Democrats missed a chance to confuse an important issue by playing politics with it," McKissick said. "South Carolinians have more sense than that. Next thing you know they're going to be asking SLED to investigate hunters who decide to show each other their shotguns without government supervision."

Follow Jamie Lovegrove on Twitter @jslovegrove.

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