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Interview with gun-toting protester at Obama rally was staged

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  • NEW: Libertarian radio host says rifle-toting protester interview was set up
  • Man with rifle at Obama event says he was exercising right to bear arms
  • Video shows man with an assault rifle slung over his shoulder at Phoenix protest
  • Secret Service: Man considered no threat to president, who was nearby
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PHOENIX, Arizona (CNN) -- He was to demonstrating his right to bear arms -- and he wanted you to know it.

A man is shown legally carrying a rifle at a protest against President Obama on Monday in Phoenix, Arizona.

A man is shown legally carrying a rifle at a protest against President Obama on Monday in Phoenix, Arizona.

Video of the unidentified man toting an assault rifle outside President Obama's speech to veterans Monday was aired all over the country, causing a buzz about weapons popping up -- legally -- around recent presidential events.

The protester, who refused to give his name, was interviewed by a man carrying a microphone and said, "I am almost always armed."

The interview, done by Libertarian radio talk show host Ernest Hancock, was staged.

"Absolutely," Hancock told CNN's Rick Sanchez Tuesday. "You guys are so easy. What we wanted to do was make sure that people around the country knew that law enforcement in Phoenix, Arizona, protects our rights." Video Watch the rifle being legally carried at rally »

The Phoenix-based host of "Declare Your Independence with Ernest Hancock" identified the bespectacled man with the AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle as "Chris," saying he's known him for two years as part of a younger generation of Libertarians.

"We are up against a tyrannical government that will rob the next generation as long as they can get away with it," Hancock said.

Chris "understands that his generation is going to be plundered until there is nothing left to plunder," he added.

And while Hancock admitted the interview was staged, he insisted the protester's message was not.

"I come from another state where 'open carry' is legal, but no one does it, so the police don't really know about it and they harass people, arrest people falsely," the protester identified as Chris told Hancock in an interview aired by CNN affiliate KNXV. "I think that people need to get out and do it more so that they get kind of conditioned to it."

Video from KNXV shows the man standing with other protesters, with the rifle slung over his right shoulder, a handgun in a holster on his left hip, and a bullet clip in his back pocket.

The same protester told KNXV separately, "I'm exercising my rights as an American in Arizona."

The protester was among a dozen other demonstrators carrying unconcealed guns outside the Obama event.

Hancock, who said he was packing a 9-millimeter Beretta pistol, added that Phoenix police had known about the group's intent to protest while carrying guns.

"They are the ones standing a few feet away from us" at Monday's protest, Hancock said. "Oftentimes, the citizenry are better armed than law enforcement -- they need us on their side."

Arizona law has nothing in the books regulating assault rifles, and only requires permits for carrying concealed weapons. So despite the man's proximity to the president, there were no charges or arrests to be made, according to Phoenix police.

Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Andy Hill on Monday said officers explained the law to some people who were upset about the presence of weapons at the protest.

Hill told CNN on Tuesday that the widely broadcast protest was no different than any other for law enforcement, in that investigators with the "community response unit" had communicated with the group ahead of time.

"We try to have as much open communication as possible so we know what to expect and how to prepare," he said, adding that the police department relayed information about Monday's to federal law enforcement.

He added that because of Arizona's open carry law, it's not uncommon for protesters to pack heat at demonstrations.

Gun-toting protesters have demonstrated around the president before. Last week, a man protesting outside Obama's town hall meeting in New Hampshire had a gun strapped to his thigh. That state also doesn't require a license for open carry.

U.S. Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan acknowledged the incidents in New Hampshire and Arizona, but said he was not aware of any other recent events where protesters attended with open weapons. He said there was no indication that anyone had organized the incidents.

Asked whether the individuals carrying weapons jeopardized the safety of the president, Donovan said, "Of course not."

The individuals would never have gotten close to the president, regardless of any state laws on openly carrying weapons, he said. A venue is considered a federal site when the Secret Service is protecting the president, and weapons are not allowed on a federal site, he said. Gun rights and health care


In both instances, the men carrying weapons were outside the venues where Obama was speaking.

"We pay attention to this obviously ... to someone with a firearm when they open carry even when they are within state law," Donovan said. "We work with our law enforcement counterparts to make sure laws and regulations in their states are enforced."

CNN's Carol Cratty and Samira Simone contributed to this report.

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