Gilliard | Provided

S.C. Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, has received more than a dozen threats of violence — and even death — since he announced Wednesday he was going to file a bill to ban assault-style weapons in South Carolina. The threats have been reported to law enforcement authorities.

Threats came as phone calls from unidentified individuals hiding behind cell phones and as coded messages on Facebook, Gilliard told City Paper today.

“First, you get the phone calls. The N-word this, the N-word that,” he said. “Then when you get on Facebook, [they say] if he’s not going to uphold the Constitution, then we ought to do something.”  Later he added, “They said things like, ‘If he can’t do his job, we need to take care of him.”

Gilliard, who has served in the General Assembly since 2009, said the coded intent of the messages was clear — that bullies were using the darkness of anonymous phone calls and the Internet to bully and intimidate in ways that hauntingly recall what happened across the Black South during civil rights struggles after World War II.

He said he also warned the dozen people who stood with him at a Wednesday press conference about threats related to the announcement he would pre-file a bill on assault weapons. At least one supporter has also received threats, he said.

During the Wednesday press conference, Gilliard emphasized how high-powered semi-automatic assault weapons are deadly, involved in hundreds of mass shootings through the years. 

“They are designed to kill many and to kill as quickly as possible,” he said. “As I have stated more times over, we will not be able to eradicate the entire gun problem, but we certainly can put laws in place to slow down the intentions of people, to reduce the number of events and reduce the number of fatalities and injuries.”

The next day, Gilliard notified SLED Chief Mark Keel of threats after the press conference and asked his agency and the FBI to investigate.  

“He informed me and all involved that stood in solidarity with me to call his office directly if intimidation or personal threats are made,” Gilliard wrote in a statement. “These will be taken seriously and prosecuted if they are found to be credible and unlawful.”


The Rev. Thomas Dixon of North Charleston, who has received similar threats in the past, stood with Gilliard on Wednesday.  Today, he said he was dismayed by continuing threats of violence from pro-gun supporters.

“Civility is out of the door and they feel like the way to accomplish anything is through bullying and they use the cyber-area to do it,” he said. “They use phone, internet and email to try to bully and to intimidate.  As long as they have a way to hide, that’s what they’re going to do.”

Pre-filing of House bills is expected in late November.

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