Man shops with unloaded assault rifle in Utah J.C. Penney

This cell phone photo provided by Cindy Yorgason shows a JC Penney shopper with an assault rifle over his shoulder in Riverdale, Utah, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013.  Cindy Yorgason said she was trying to exchange an item at the store when she spotted the man and took his photo.  The man, identified as 22-year-old Joseph Kelley, says he wanted to demonstrate that the weapons aren’t dangerous when handled by law-abiding citizens.  Kelley told The Salt Lake Tribune the rifle was an unloaded AR-15, and he was also carrying a loaded Glock 19c on his hip.   (AP Photo/Cindy Yorgason)
This cell phone photo provided by Cindy Yorgason shows a JC Penney shopper with an assault rifle over his shoulder in Riverdale, Utah, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013. Cindy Yorgason said she was trying to exchange an item at the store when she spotted the man and took his photo. The man, identified as 22-year-old Joseph Kelley, says he wanted to demonstrate that the weapons aren’t dangerous when handled by law-abiding citizens. Kelley told The Salt Lake Tribune the rifle was an unloaded AR-15, and he was also carrying a loaded Glock 19c on his hip. (AP Photo/Cindy Yorgason)

The man in the photo above, 22-year-old Joseph Kelley, decided to conduct a social experiment to show people that weapons aren’t dangers when they are in the hands of law-abiding people. The photo was taken by Cindy Yorgason, a J.C. Penney shopper who witnessed Kelley’s stunt.

The woman told the Salt Lake Tribune that Kelley also had additional ammunition clips and sidearm in a holster. She took a photo of the Kelley with the assault rifle, which eventually went viral. The man initially wasn’t identified in the photo, but soon came forward.

From the article linked above:

Kelley described himself as a firm believer in Second Amendment rights and said he decided to bring the guns to the store to demonstrate that they are not dangerous in the hands of law-abiding citizens.

According to Kelley, the rifle was an unloaded AR-15 and the handgun was a loaded Glock 19C. He said he has a concealed-carry permit, is a former member of the military and contacted police dispatch before leaving his home to tell them about his plans. Kelley also said he was told that he was “well within his rights” and that bystanders’ reactions were positive.

“I felt no negative vibes from anyone,” Kelley said. “I think it went rather surprisingly well.”

Kelley added that he carries weapons to protect children and other people from “criminals, cartels, drug lords” and other “evil men.

Yorgason said the man’s behavior was in “poor taste.”

“I thought that he was pretty much an idiot,” Yorgason said. “You do not need to do something like this even if you are against any potential bans.”

Store manager Darin Vandehei said it was the first time in his 20 years at J.C. Penney that something like that had happened. Vandehei said he was looking into the incident but declined to comment further. He did not provide information about any gun policies at the store.

Jason Chapman, the firearms supervisor for the Utah Department of Public Safety, said a person with a concealed-carry permit may carry a loaded gun publicly. Permit holders are not required to conceal their guns. People without permits are only allowed to carry unloaded weapons in public, Chapman said.

Utah law makes concealed-carry permits available to adults who complete a gun class, an application and a background check.

How cute: a 20-something gun rights activist does something edgy and bold by carrying an unloaded assault rifle in public spaces to show people that they have nothing to be afraid of. How nice of this man to leverage his white privilege and carry an unloaded assault rifle on his back without having to worry about anyone automatically assuming he’s out to cause mayhem and commit murder.

As an aside, I wonder how positive people’s reaction would have been if a young black man with sagging pants walked into J.C. Penney with an unloaded assault rifle as a social experiment. Anyway…

Don’t you just love Kelley’s justification that he packs heat because he wants to protect the public and children from “criminals, cartels, drug lords and ‘evil men’?” He wants us to feel warm and fuzzy because he’s offering himself as the de facto bodyguard of the public! How sweet of him to sacrifice his life to make sure those pesky drug cartels don’t try anything funny with me while I’m at the mall or something…

I always sigh and shake my head at stunts like this because it serves as a distraction from the impact gun violence has on society and instead shifts the focus to the person who caused a stir by pushing the envelope.

Most people understand the fact that the likelihood of gun violence occurring increases when guns and ammo are placed in the hands of unstable individuals, so I have a hard time buying into his BS about trying to educate people. If Kelley was serious about educating people, he would have teamed up with local resources and offer seminars and courses on guns and gun safety.

Kelley’s publicity stunt most likely did nothing to change the mindset of those who got to experience his act. If anything, it most likely hardened people’s beliefs about guns, the Second Amendment and gun control.

What say you about this man’s decision?