Charlottesville police say the man who showed up at a Kroger grocery store with a loaded gun wanted to make a point. On Sunday, an unidentified 22-year-old man carried a loaded AR-15 into the Kroger store on Emmet Street and Hydraulic Road, sparking not only a scare for customers and employees but also a 2nd Amendment debate.
Charlottesville police drew their guns on the man after witnesses reported he brought a gun into the store. They restrained the man to ask him questions, but released him after they confirmed he is not a convicted felon, owned the gun legally and it was not concealed.
Police say he was cooperative and did nothing illegal. Officers did find a note in his pocket spelling out his intent to express his 2nd Amendment rights. Police say they could not release man's name because he was not arrested.
National Rifle Association (NRA) instructor Bill Davis says the gun incident was inappropriate and could have turned violent.
"I think it reflects on all gun owners in a bad way," Davis said. "I've talked to six NRA instructors this morning about it. Why did he have that note in his pocket? I think - this is my personal opinion - I think he expected to be shot, so they would have found the note and said he wasn't doing nothing."
NRA instructors and police agree that he did nothing illegal, but he did cause a lot of concern.
"He did not do anything wrong other than to disrupt a lot of activity, concern a lot of people within there and of course so close to the heels of a tragedy that happened in Connecticut," said Charlottesville Police Lieutenant Ronnie Roberts.
The disruption sparked the Kroger store to ban him from the property. Private property owners and businesses can post signs to keep guns out.
"The private property owners or businesses have a right to keep individuals that have either shotguns or rifles from coming into their business," Roberts said. "They can post that at the entrance to the door so that it is clearly visible, that no firearms of such are allowed inside the business."
Police point out that some localities in Virginia have restricted the use of carrying a rifle or a shotgun, but Charlottesville is not one of them. Click here for a closer look at Virginia laws pertaining to firearms. Davis says some of the legislation should be reformed.
"I think the law should be changed a little bit to say yes, you could carry open with a handgun, but you know you don't want to carry an assault weapon or any kind of shotgun in a public place of business," he said.
Charlottesville police say calls like these will require them to use valuable time and personnel.
"It does drain resources, as you could well see yesterday - the number of officers that were there and the heightened awareness on the officers' part," said Roberts. "I think the overall aspect of it is, it will increase the call volume requiring a number of officers to respond and it is a very delicate situation that you're dealing with."
A situation Davis says could have been prevented with some common sense. "If you go and carry concealed, carry concealed and don't let nobody know it. If you go and carry open, respect the rights of others," he said.
The Kroger on Hydraulic Road has no signs in front to prohibit guns from the store. Witnesses say the man did approach the store at first, and looked like he was checking for those signs before bringing in the gun.
Kroger Mid-Atlantic has released the following statement in regards to Sunday night's incident:
"Our policy in regards to guns in our stores is to comply with the state and local laws. The safety of our customers and our associates is always first and foremost as we run our business.
We treat each situation individually, based on the circumstance. In this case it was alarming and frightening to our customers and associates due to recent events.
Several of our customers dialed 9-1-1 and our store team's reaction was reasonable and understood."
Wednesday, May 22 2013 7:36 PM EDT2013-05-22 23:36:22 GMT
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