COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The Republican seeking to replace Mick Mulvaney in the U.S. House said Thursday that the shooting of a congressman during a recreational baseball practice is a prime example of why more people should carry guns.
Ralph Norman, a former state lawmaker seeking to represent South Carolina's 5th District, said that more people would have been wounded or killed if officers providing security for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise hadn't been armed when a man opened fire Wednesday morning at a ballfield in Alexandria, Virginia.
"Absolutely," Norman, a real estate developer and former state lawmaker, told The Associated Press, when asked if he wanted to carry a weapon if elected to the House seat. "More people ought to be armed."
Norman, who faces off with Democrat Archie Parnell and three third-party candidates in next Tuesday's election, said he has a concealed carry permit in South Carolina.
The shooting of Scalise and four others, including two members of the Capitol Police, has prompted a renewed conversation about gun possession, particularly among elected officials. Some congressmen have proposed allowing members to carry weapons for protection.
Firearms and other dangerous weapons are prohibited on the U.S. Capitol grounds, and the District of Columbia has otherwise strict firearms rules. In Virginia, where the shooting occurred, firearms can be openly carried without a permit, and the state issues concealed carry permits. In nearby Maryland, applicants for wear-and-carry permits are required to show "good and substantial reason" for needing a handgun's protection, according to state police.
For Norman, the shooting of Scalise has been a teachable moment with his campaign staffers on how to approach security issues.
"The baseball game is a poster child for what can happen at any event, any town hall," he said. "I thank God those security guards were armed."
Norman spoke after a forum with other candidates in Tuesday's special election for South Carolina's 5th District seat. Parnell said he supported the Second Amendment but wanted smarter background check procedures. That includes adding days to the window of time clerks have to do the checks, something authorities have said might have made it tougher for Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof to buy the gun he used to massacre nine people at a June 2015 Bible study.
More than just current events, though, Parnell said one of his goals in Congress would be to find a way to hold substantive conversations on divisive issues like guns.
"The tone in this country is wrong," Parnell said during Thursday's forum, in answering a question on gun regulation. "We cannot shout at each other."
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