A medical researcher in Arizona said on Monday that he was only making a political statement and did not intend to hurt anyone, after he was arrested last month for walking into an airport in Phoenix with a loaded assault rifle, a Reuters report said.
Peter Nathan Steinmetz, 54, paced around Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport with the assault rifle slung over his shoulder before pointing the weapon at a terrified woman and her 17-year-old daughter on July 25, after which he was arrested, authorities said.
Speaking about the incident to the public for the first time on Monday, Steinmetz justified his actions by telling reporters that, "put simply, I decided to make the point that a peaceful citizen can openly and responsibly carry a firearm, including an AR-15, for the protection of themselves and their community," maintaining that he did not point his gun at anyone at the airport and that he is "an educated and responsible gun owner" who had his gun’s safety on at the time.
Although he was arrested, Steinmetz was not charged over the incident and claimed he was only asserting his Second Amendment right to bear arms, without intending to endanger anyone, adding that the airport was a good place to make the statement while criticizing the Transportation Security Administration as an agency that "disarms people and subjects them to gross invasions of their privacy."
Steinmetz, who is employed with Phoenix's Barrow Neurological Institute, was detained by police and told them that he had come to the airport to get a cup of coffee. He was then booked on suspicion of two felony counts of disorderly conduct with a weapon before being jailed. A county attorney spokesperson said on Monday that the case was returned to police for further investigation.
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Sergeant Steve Martos, a spokesman for Phoenix Police, said that this was not the first time that Steinmetz has had an arms-related brush with police. Steinmetz was questioned last November for being armed while going to pick his wife up from the airport. His minor son was armed as well at the time, but neither was charged, Martos said.