(TheBlaze/AP) — Cell phone images of a Utah man who went shopping with a rifle slung over his shoulder and a Glock 19c on his hip have gone viral on the internet, with some saluting his boldness and others questioning the wisdom of his decision.
An Ogden woman snapped a few photos of the man standing inside a J.C. Penney on Wednesday, noting that even for a firearm-friendly state like Utah, it was out of the ordinary.
“I’ve seen someone carrying on their hip or leg, but I have never seen anyone openly carrying an assault rifle,” she said.
Cindy Yorgason took two photos of the man and posted them on Facebook, where they received hundreds of comments and have since been shared thousands of times. She said she’s “incredibly amazed” at the attention the images received.
However, Yorgason said she wasn’t alarmed when she spotted the weapons. She just thinks the man took his statement a little too far.
“I thought that he was pretty much an idiot,” Yorgason concluded. “You do not need to do something like this even if you are against any potential bans.”
The man, identified as Joseph Kelley, 22, later told The Salt Lake Tribune he wanted to demonstrate that the weapons aren’t dangerous when handled by law-abiding citizens.
Kelley said he’s a former member of the military and alerted police in advance that he would be carrying the weapon, which he identified as an unloaded AR-15.
He said he received positive reactions from people who spotted him.
“I felt no negative vibes from anyone,” Kelley said. “I think it went rather surprisingly well.” He added that he carries weapons to protect his family and community from “criminals, cartels, drug lords” and other “evil men.”
Local law enforcement authorities said they didn’t receive any calls related to the incident or any notice from Kelley, Riverdale City Police Lieutenant James Ebert said.
But if the gun is unloaded, “then you’re well within your rights to carry a firearm,” Ebert added.
Weighing in on Kelley’s stated purpose for carrying a gun, one ThinkProgress commenter sarcastically wrote: “Since JC Penny’s is so populated with criminals, cartel members, drug lords, and evil men–especially in Utah…” Another added: “These gun freaks are truly – freaks.”
KSL has more on the story: