Rep. Ralph Norman earlier this month pulled his loaded .38-caliber pistol from underneath his clothing and placed it on the restaurant table before him. His aim was to show constituents during a meet-and-greet at the Rock Hill Diner that guns don’t kill people — people kill people.
No one died at the hands of the inanimate, legally owned firearm, but the Republican congressman has placed himself squarely in the crosshairs of many, including the S.C. Democratic Party. Its chairman, Trav Robertson, has written letters to everyone but Santa Claus in an attempt to have Norman held responsible for presenting a gun in public.
In a letter to the S.C. Law Enforcement Division, Robertson requested an investigation into the matter. Robertson also wrote 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett, asking that felony charges be filed against Norman.
According to Robertson, Norman violated section 16-23-410 of the state’s code of laws. The pointing-and-presenting statute reads, in part, that it’s unlawful for a person to “present or point at another person a loaded or unloaded firearm.”
Kind of vague and ambiguous, if you ask this Sidebar reporter, especially given that no one claims that Norman pointed anything at them. In fact, Norman specifically contends that he pointed the weapon away from the members of Mothers Demand Action, the group with whom he was speaking.
Legality aside, how wise Norman’s actions were may be another question, entirely.
York County’s deputy public defender, B.J. Barrowclough, believes Norman committed a crime.
Solicitor Brackett, Norman’s friend and fellow Republican, disagrees.
According to The Herald (Rock Hill), Brackett said Norman’s meeting with the group, the topic being gun control, shows “everyone attending understood the purpose of his action and no one felt threatened or the need to summon the police.” The context of the discussion, he added, showed that there was no criminal intent.
Brackett conceded, however, that if a regular citizen did the same thing, it would undoubtedly “evoke a different reaction from the wait staff,” and the citizen should reasonably expect to be in the presence of police officers soon.
Lawyers Weekly reached out to Brackett to see if he would mind too much if this Sidebar reporter met with a few friends inside a public restaurant and, while talking gun control with them and devoid of any criminal intent — in his official capacity as a journalist investigating Second Amendment issues, of course — unholstered a firearm and laid it on the table.
As of press time, Brackett had not responded to Sidebar’s inquiry. So, exercising an abundance of caution and common sense, and in the absence of appropriate legal guidance, Sidebar will proceed on the assumption that hell, yes, he would mind.