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The issue of gun control came to a head in Maryland after a man began regularly standing at a school bus stop with an AR-15-style rifle in his hands.
For the past few weeks, J’Den McAdory, 20, has been strolling around his neighborhood in Severn, Md., with a long gun in what he says is a protest against recent state gun control legislation.
Police say his actions are legal.
McAdory has not yet responded to NPR’s request for comment, but he told WBAL-TV, which first reported on the controversy, “Guns can be safe if it’s controlled by the right person.” He added, “I really wasn’t coming out here for the kids. I was coming out here to show people that this is legal.”
McAdory’s protest has stoked fear among families and amplified concerns about open carry, particularly near children.
McAdory took issue with Maryland’s Gun Safety Act of 2023, which was enacted on Tuesday. It states that a person is no longer allowed to carry a firearm in a school, health care facility or a place licensed to sell alcohol or cannabis such as a stadium, museum or racetrack.
Guns rights activists criticized the law. The National Rifle Association described the legislation as “unconstitutional” and sued the state.
Gov. Wes Moore’s office condemned McAdory’s behavior, adding that it will not change his views on gun control.
“Scaring our kids and threatening our communities won’t help make Maryland safe. The governor won’t allow these tactics to stop his administration from taking common-sense steps to protect our communities,” the office said in a statement.
Local families have been disturbed by McAdory’s display of his rifle near children. Little can be legally done to stop McAdory despite Maryland having some of the toughest gun laws in the country.
“I feel like if we don’t do something about it now, then we’ll be talking again, and it’ll be too late at that point,” Jamie Sparrow, a parent of an elementary school student, told WBAL-TV. “I think that lives could be lost (or) people could be harmed.”
The Anne Arundel County Police said the department has received “numerous” calls about an armed community member, but the person in question is a legal gun owner and allowed to openly carry a rifle.
“Officers are in the area to help ease growing concerns between students and parents alike,” the department said in a statement.
Similarly, the principal of the nearby elementary school told parents that the local police department and state attorney’s office made clear: “The man is doing nothing illegal by carrying the long gun. He is exercising his constitutional rights, as he is free to do.”
Isaphine Smith, the principal of Severn Elementary School, added that McAdory agreed to stop visiting elementary school bus stops after the school’s Communications Office “kindly asked.”
Smith also offered recommendations on how to “alleviate fear and anxiety” if McAdory returns.
The tips included: “Advise your student that they should ask the man to leave them alone” and “walk away from him if they are approached by him.”
This story originally appeared on NPR