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Controversy in Italy after man is injured at New Year’s party with gun owned by Meloni lawmaker

Prosecutors are investigating why a revolver in possession of Brothers of Italy MP Emmanuele Pozzolo went off, hitting the son-in-law of a member of the security team who was there with a junior justice minister

Lawmaker Emmanuele Pozzolo in the Italian Parliament, in a photo from his social media accounts.
Lawmaker Emmanuele Pozzolo in the Italian Parliament, in a photo from his social media accounts.

The first political uproar of the year in Italy for Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni concerns a stray bullet that was fired — no one has yet clarified how — from the gun of a lawmaker for the Brothers of Italy, the party she leads. The shot slightly injured the son-in-law of a member of the security team who was with a junior justice minister at a New Year’s Eve party in northern Italy. The Prosecutor’s Office is investigating the incident and the opposition wants Meloni to clarify what happened.

It’s early morning on January 1st. The place is Rosazza, a mountain village with a population of 90 in the Piedmont region of northern Italy. Several people are at a New Year’s Eve party when, suddenly, a shot is heard and a man is wounded in the leg. The victim is the son-in-law of one of the bodyguards of the Undersecretary of State for Justice, Andrea Delmastro, and the gun is owned by Brothers of Italy lawmaker Emmanuele Pozzolo, although the latter says that he never pulled the trigger. In the first moments of confusion, the partygoers are unsure whether what they’ve just heard is a firecracker or a firearm.

The injured man, who is 31 years old, was taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital and was discharged a few hours later. According to the first reconstruction of events, the shot came from a 0.22 caliber North American Arms mini-revolver, which Pozzolo legally owns and which he was showing to some other people at the party. The Prosecutor’s Office has opened an investigation.

“I confirm that the shot was accidental, but it was not me who discharged it,” said Pozzolo, who has not revealed who did. The newspaper La Repubblica pointed out that the lawmaker has undergone a test to determine if there was gunpowder residue on his hands, but refused to hand over to investigators the clothes he was wearing at the time of the attacks, as requested by the Prosecutor’s Office, availing himself of his parliamentary immunity. If prosecutors require other types of action such as a search of Pozzolo’s home or his call records, they will have to request authorization from parliament.

Italian media outlets indicate that responsibility for the incident would fall on Pozzolo, who had the duty to guard the weapon that he was authorized to carry for his personal defense.

Pozzolo was not one of the guests at the party, which included several members of the Brothers of Italy. Among the 30 or so guests there was also Francesca Delmastro, sister of the undersecretary and mayor of Rosazza. Pozzolo, who is originally from a neighboring town, drove by the celebration venue, recognized some of the cars parked at the door and asked for permission to go in to say hello. Shortly after, the shot was heard.

The Undersecretary of Justice has stated that at that precise moment he had gone out to his car to collect something and so was not present when the shot was fired and did not see what happened. “My bodyguard wanted me to leave right away, but I told him I wanted to know what had happened to the young man and check how he was doing. They had placed him on the table in the middle of the hallway. He was injured in the leg. He is 31 years old. He told me that he had won the award for best worker of the year and that he hoped to win it again. And he added: ‘I’m sorry for you, because you’re going to get into trouble and you weren’t even in the room,’ explained Delmastro in an interview with La Repubblica. He has also declared himself “stunned” by the fact that his political colleague went to a party with a loaded weapon. “It’s a rarity, of course. I told him to come, but I never imagined that he would bring a weapon,” he said.

It is currently unclear why Pozzolo was armed. According to local media, Meloni’s party is trying to clarify whether there are justified reasons for personal security. This is the first term as a lawmaker for Pozzolo, who was known in local politics for his anti-vaccine positions during the pandemic. He has also been a member of the far-right Northern League (when the party was still called that, before becoming simply the League). His pro-gun statements can still be found on social media, such as one from 2015, after a mass shooting at a school in Oregon. “For Obama, the blame always lies with the guns. However, I have never seen a gun that fires by itself,” he said then.

The incident has roiled politics. The opposition, led by the progressive Democratic Party (PD), has called for Delmastro’s resignation and Meloni’s intervention to “immediately clarify” the incident. “These incompetents are a danger to the safety of those around them, not to mention national security. Let Giorgia Meloni clarify what measures she intends to take against Deputy Pozzolo, who goes to parties with a loaded gun in his pocket and ends up injuring people,” said the leader of the party, Elly Schlein.

“Gunslinging lawmaker”

Greens spokesman Angelo Bonelli has also called for Delmastro to resign. And Matteo Renzi, leader of the centrist Italia Viva, has criticized the “inability” of Meloni’s government. “They are inadequate, incapable, insurpassable. And dangerous, especially to themselves. If this is how they are starting the year, imagine what could happen in 2024. While waiting for the gunman deputy’s weapons to be taken away, I hope Delmastro will leave the government as soon as possible,” the former prime minister wrote on his social media accounts. And he asked himself: “What were the security officers doing at the party? And their relatives? And above all: why bring weapons to a New Year’s Eve party in the presence of lawmakers and members of government?” “All we were missing was the gunslinging lawmaker,” the 5 Star Movement ironically stated.

Brothers of Italy has downplayed an incident that in its opinion has “no political relevance.” The party has limited itself to saying that the relevant authorities will ”determine accountability.” The party has described as “absurd” the attempt to transform the incident “into a political case to attack the Brothers of Italy.”

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