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Law allows Georgia man to carry assault rifle into Atlanta airport

"People think that if you're simply carrying your firearm, regardless of how you're carrying it, you're a bad person," said Georgia resident Jim Cooley.

By Doug G. Ware

ATLANTA, June 3 (UPI) -- Authorities kept a close eye on a Georgia man who recently carried his AR-15 assault rifle and 100 rounds of ammunition into one of the nation's busiest airports -- although the man carrying it says there was no need for concern.

Jim Cooley carried the weapon into Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport to put his daughter on a plane last week -- the second time he says he's done so, but the first time it has caused a bit of a stir.

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"People think that if you're simply carrying your firearm, regardless of how you're carrying it, you're a bad person," he said in a report by the New York Daily News. "But if you're not carrying it in a menacing or threatening manner, it should be no cause for concern for anybody."

Cooley, 50, said he didn't carry the assault rifle into the airport for any particular reason, other than the fact it was his right to do so. Last year, a Georgia law was enacted that makes it legal to "open carry" firearms in many places, including airports.

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"You never know where something might happen," he said. "If you don't exercise your rights, the government doesn't have any hesitation to take them away."

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Federal and state law states, though, that no one can carry weapons into secure areas -- like those beyond the TSA security screeners and on a plane itself.

However, Cooley said, he received quite a bit of unwanted attention from onlookers and even police officers at Hartsfield -- one of whom followed him out to his vehicle upon his departure.

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"Why should anyone come up to me and ask me why I'm doing something I have the right to do?" he said. "It's like asking you, 'Why are you breathing?'"

Cooley said this is the second time he has openly carried a weapon into the airport. The first occasion, he said, didn't attract much attention. He also said those who are afraid of the sight of a man with a gun simply need to be informed that it's legal.

"I expect people to understand Georgia law. If they don't know it, if they can't stand the sight of someone carrying a gun, they should stay inside," he said.

Cooley video recorded some of his encounters with airport police and posted them to YouTube.

"I just want to let you know, you've got quite a few people afraid because calls are, like, just coming in left and right," one officer can be heard saying off-screen.

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"Well, people's fear[s] are not my responsibility," Cooley can be heard saying.

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