Updated April 8, 2018 at 11 a.m.
U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman pulled out his own loaded handgun during a meeting with constituents Friday in Rock Hill to make a point that guns are dangerous only in the hands of criminals.
The Republican representative placed the .38-caliber gun on a table during the "coffee with constituents" meeting at a restaurant.
"I'm not going to be a Gabby Giffords," Norman said, referring to the former Arizona congresswoman who was shot outside a grocery store during a constituent gathering in 2011.
Giffords' husband, retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, said in a statement that Norman is "no Gabby Giffords" and "extremists like the NRA and [Norman]... rely on intimidation tactics and perpetuating fear." He also noted that his wife has dedicated her life to ending gun violence.
Norman said he'll display his gun at future constituent meetings.
"I'm tired of these liberals jumping on the guns themselves as if they are the cause of the problem," Norman told The Post and Courier. "Guns are not the problem."
School teacher Lori Carter of Charlotte, North Carolina, said she thought the move was contradictory because Norman didn't know if someone there had mental health issues.
"What was to prevent me from leaning across the table to take that gun?" she said.
South Carolina Democratic Party Chairmain Tray Robertson says what Norman did violated the state's concealed weapon law. According to The Rock Hill Herald, Robertson said he's requesting the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to investigate the incident.
"As any truly responsible gun owner knows and as the statute says, if you have a concealed carry permit, you cannot brandish your weapon without an imminent threat," Robertson said in a statement.
Robertson cited state law, which states it is illegal for anyone to "present or point at another person a loaded or unloaded firearm."