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Delaware lawmaker apologizes after offensive suicide remark

Charles MegginsonGovernment, Headlines

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Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark

Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark, said Tuesday night “gun worshipers” should “stick the barrel of your piece in your mouth.” 

A casual observer may assume he was responding to a post about Tuesday’s mass shooting in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

In reality, Kowalko was talking about people who don’t want to wear masks despite the number of COVID-19 cases and positive tests rising in Delaware. On Wednesday afternoon, he deleted his comments and posted an apology.

He was reacting to a user by the name of “C-Dawg Rowe,” who responded to a Facebook post detailing the 7-day average for positive COVID-19 tests by saying, “Tests are not sick people!”

“No,” Kowalko responded to Rowe, “but moronic conspiracy theorists such as you and those like you are ‘sick’ people willing to risk the health of others and their children rather than inconvenience their idiot selves with a vaccination or mask.”

Rowe replied, “Holy Cow! Q-tip lives!! Don’t you find it amazing that with such limited cognitive abilities, you are still capable of breathing unassisted? Go do something that’ll make you feel better, like kick your neighbor’s puppy.”

Kowalko shot back, “I’ve got a suggestion for you and your fellow gun worshipers. Instead of wearing a mask, stick the barrel of your piece in your mouth. Maybe those 14 children killed in Texas would have been safer from the virus and you psycho, small-penis gun fondlers.”

Rowe did not respond to Kowalko. Click here to see the screenshot of the exchange.

Spokesmen for both the House Democratic and Republican caucuses declined to comment.

Kowalko told Delaware LIVE News Wednesday that he made the post because “people don’t want to wear masks because they’re inconvenient — they don’t care about protecting children.”

Similarly, he said, “People want to keep their guns, even though there are people out there massacring children with these guns.” 

Kowalko said he’s “tired of the anti-maskers, tired of the anti-vaxxers and tired of the gun-toting gun fondlers who believe it’s their right to have a gun that can kill masses.”

Time after time, he said, lawmakers respond to mass shootings with thoughts, prayers and moments of silence, rather than changing policy to protect children.

“It’s time now to stop this insanity,” Kowalko said. “It’s time now to register all weapons. All weapons should be registered. And then, gradually, there should be a repossession of assault weapons and semi-automatics.”

Kowalko, who is not seeking re-election, was among many government officials who commented on the Texas school shooting.

Attorney General Kathy Jennings on Wednesday said she’s “tired of the lie that there’s nothing we can do.”

“And I am tired of the pattern of mass carnage being followed by mass mourning and mass inaction,” Jennings said. “There is no good reason to wait for the unspeakable to happen before we consider life-saving policy — and yet reliably, we do.”

State Sen. Laura Sturgeon, D-Hockessin, said Tuesday’s shooting reiterates the need to pass Senate Bill 3, legislation that would require a permit to purchase handguns in Delaware.

“The evidence is clear that requiring a permit to purchase reduces gun violence,” Sturgeon said. “Because of that, I respectfully request that the House bring SB 3 to the floor for a vote before the end of session on June 30th. No parent in Delaware should have to mourn the loss of a child to gun violence whether in school, in church, in a store, or on the streets. We must do everything we can to ensure our children are safe.”

Kowalko said no matter how offensive his Facebook comment was, it pales in comparison to lawmakers’ “offensive inaction on gun reform.”

“I don’t know that it’s excusable, but here’s the explanation,” Kowalko said. “I’m angry. I’m frustrated. I’m frustrated with politicians and lawmakers, the leadership — everyone on down the line — Democrats and Republicans sit there in their offices and I just cannot fathom their lack of effort, their lack of intention or their lack of willingness to do anything about this.”

He added that lawmakers are “directly responsible, as if they were pulling the trigger.”

After his interview with Delaware LIVE News, Kowalko deleted his Facebook comments and posted the following apology:

I would like to apologize for my posted remarks that question the sincerity and intentions of those individuals who feel that their personal rights are being abrogated or threatened. It is not my place to judge others and accuse them of being callous or unfeeling toward others. I hope I can convince some of those people that maybe we can agree to a mutually constructive solution to address this nation’s failures and a reasonable path forward. The anger I feel regarding the recent tragedy in Texas and Oklahoma has caused a visceral reaction on my part that has unfairly placed blame where it is not deserved. I am not ready to forgive my fellow lawmakers, politicians, and leaders for their consistent and persistent lack of action and I pray they can do better. 

Representative John Kowalko 

C-Dawg Rowe, later identified as Chris Rowe, former chair of the New Castle County Republican Committee, told Delaware LIVE News he doesn’t accept Kowalko’s apology.

“We’re not talking about a kid here,” Rowe said. “We’re talking about a grown man who appears to be emotionally unstable.”

He said he took Kowalko’s comments to mean that he should kill himself. He didn’t respond, he said, because “there’s nothing I can say to that. I would never wish harm against any human being — ever.”

Rowe said if a Republican lawmaker directed a similar statement at an abortion rights advocate, there would be bilateral calls for that lawmaker to resign.

“You really have to ask yourself, what are the people in his district thinking — that elected him,” he said.

Rowe added that he called Kowalko “Q-tip” because “when he lets his hair grow — yeah, he does. He looks like a Q-tip.”

That’s an example, Rowe said, of simply “busting his chops.” 

“And you know what I expect — you bust me back,” he said. “I mean, you don’t ask me to commit suicide.”

In a follow-up conversation, Kowalko said he misdirected his anger. 

“Adding violence to violence does nothing to solve the problem,” Kowalko said.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a hotline for individuals in crisis or for those looking to help someone else. To speak with a certified listener, call 1-800-273-8255.

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