Jim Cooley and his daughter. (Photo: Jim Cooley/Facebook)
The story of a man who walked into Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Friday carrying a loaded AR-15 semiautomatic rifle has gone viral. And here’s the most amazing part of it: his actions were completely legal, thanks to Georgia’s gun laws. Passed in 2014, the HB 512 Safe Carry Protection Act allows people to openly carry a rifle in an airport, so long as they don’t try to go through security.
The armed Cooley was dropping his daughter off for a flight, when police officers approached Cooley, asking why he was carrying a semiautomatic weapon with an extended capacity 100-round drum.
His response? “Safety.”
Cooley posted videos on YouTube, recording his conversations with the officers.
“You’ve got quite a few people afraid because calls are like just coming in left and right,” one officer says to Cooley.
“People’s fears are not my responsibility,” Cooley responds, then goes on to explain his rights. “If you’re detaining me, then I’m going to have to file a lawsuit against the airport,“ he says.
LISTEN to Cooley’s interaction with the police officer:
Cooley explained his actions to Atlanta’s WBS-TV Channel 2: “It shouldn’t matter what I carry, just that I choose to carry,” Cooley said. “You never know where something might happen.”
According to Cooley, he was exercising his rights: “If you don’t exercise your rights, the government doesn’t have any hesitation taking them away,” Cooley told WBS-TV Channel 2.
This isn’t the first example of someone carrying a gun into an airport to make a statement. In July, Dr. Peter Steinmetz, a director at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, made headlines when he walked around Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport with an AR-15 over his shoulder. It is also legal to carry a gun in an airport in Arizona before security.
Hartsfield-Jackson International is the busiest airport in the world.