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Man caught shopping with a rifle saw mixed response

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Posted at 9:18 PM, Jan 23, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-24 00:08:00-05

RIVERDALE, Utah - Photos of a man shopping at a Riverdale JC Penney with a semi-automatic rifle strapped on his back went viral last week.

22-year-old Joseph Kelley says he was simply exercising his second amendment right to bear arms, but his actions sparked both criticism and praise from those engaged in the gun control debate.

Kelley served time in the U.S. Army as a military police officer, so he knows how to handle a firearm. He has a concealed weapon permit. 

Kelley firmly believes that guns don't kill people; people kill people. He says his armed trip to pay a JC Penney bill had a purpose.

"I did it to show the American people that there are still law-abiding citizens in this community and in this country that aren't going to go completely crazy and do something a little bit drastic. That these weapons can be used for safety, that they can be used for protection of the innocent and not be portrayed as a violent tool," he said.

Kelley called Weber County Dispatch before he left his house to let them know what he was doing, providing a description of himself and what he was wearing.

No one at the JC Penney store called police, and Kelley says that's evidence that no one was bothered by his AR-15 rifle.

"I went up to the counter. The lady greeted me with a smile, and she said, "Hi, how can I help you today," he said.

His high-profile method of showing off his rights was met with mixed responses.

"It's been mixed reviews from here and there. Some people say I did more harm than good. Others say I did the right thing to stand up for what I believe in," Kelley said.

Nothing Kelley did was illegal. But since the incident, he says both he and his wife say they've been criticized and harassed about what he did.

While he's glad he did it, Kelley doesn't plan on doing it again.

Related story:
Photos capture man with a rifle shopping at JCPenney