Maryland’s governor is condemning a man who says he was protesting gun control laws by openly carrying an assault rifle near school bus stops in Anne Arundel County. Law enforcement says the man was not breaking any laws.
The man said he was “just showing people it’s legal.”
A spokesperson for Gov. Wes Moore, a Democrat, said the man’s actions scared children and “won’t help make Maryland safe.”
“To stem the tide of gun violence and create safer, stronger communities, we need partnership – not shallow acts of cowardice and intimidation,” press secretary Carter Elliott IV told CNN in an email Monday.
“Scaring our kids and threatening our communities won’t help make Maryland safe,” he continued. “The governor won’t allow these tactics to stop his administration from taking common-sense steps to protect our communities. He condemns this behavior and will keep fighting to build a safer Maryland.”
The man, identified by CNN affiliate WBAL as 20-year-old J’den McAdory, told WBAL that he means no harm and was protesting a new gun control law that restricts where people are able to carry firearms in public. He also said he was trying to deter crime in the area.
“I’m not an active shooter. I’m not an active gunman. And, I’m no threat to any children out here,” McAdory told WBAL last week.
Earlier this month, Moore signed the Gun Safety Act of 2023, which prohibits “a person from knowingly wearing, carrying, or transporting a firearm in certain locations,” according to its synopsis.
McAdory said he at the bus stops “just showing people it’s legal, spreading a little bit of silent freedom. Guns can be safe if it’s controlled by the right person. I really wasn’t coming out here for the kids. I was coming out here to show people that this is legal.”
On Thursday, he told WBAL that he came to an agreement with the school district to no longer protest with his AR-15 during local school pickup or drop-off times.
CNN reached out to McAdory for additional comment.
The Baltimore Banner news website obtained a hand-delivered letter to McAdory written by Anne Arundel County Attorney Gregory Swain on Thursday that accused McAdory of placing children “in reasonable fear for their lives.”
“It has come to our attention that since May 15th, you have been purposely choosing to open-carry and AR-15 rifle in the presence of elementary school children at school bus stops,” the letter said, in part. “Your course of conduct is placing those children in reasonable fear for their lives, and safety, and directly causing a disruption to the public peace in public areas where school children are present and during a time period in our society where school shootings have unfortunately become so frequent that parents and school officials have a reasonable concern about your current actions around them.”
CNN has reached out to Swain’s office to obtain the letter.
The Anne Arundel County Police Department said it was aware of the situation, but authorities acknowledged that McAdory is not breaking any laws.
“The Anne Arundel County Police Department has received numerous calls for service involving an armed subject in a residential community in Severn,” the department said in a statement.
“The armed subject is reported to walk on public property near and past school bus stops, occasionally talking with children,” the statement continued, “Officers have made contact with the subject, who is not a prohibited possessor, and the long gun in question is permitted under the Maryland open carry laws. The police department has been in constant contact with Anne Arundel County Public Schools and the State’s Attorney’s Office. Officers are in the area to help ease growing concerns between students and parents alike.”
Severn Elementary School Principal Isaphine Smith sent a letter to families and staff last week to address their concerns about McAdory’s actions.
“I fully realize that emotions can run high in any situation where the safety of students is involved,” Smith wrote. “It is critically important, however, that we all exercise good judgment and proper restraint in this situation.”
Smith said she, the police department and the school district’s communication office have been in touch with McAdory and confirmed he agreed to curb his protests near students.
“In a conversation with the Communications Office this morning, the man agreed to stop visiting any bus stops in the morning and to stop visiting elementary school bus stops entirely,” Smith wrote, “Our Communications Office again acknowledged his right to do what he is doing but kindly asked him to avoid areas where any students gather to get on or off school buses during the hours in which that normally occurs.”
Smith advised parents and staff to tell their students to “ask the man to leave them alone and walk away from him if they are approached by him.”
CNN’s Michelle Watson, Braden Walker, and Zoe Sottile contributed to this report.