An Arizona neuroscientist arrested on July 25 for bringing a loaded assault rifle into the Phoenix airport said he only carried the firearm to make a political statement, not to harm anyone.
But authorities said Peter Nathan Steinmetz pointed the gun at a woman and her 17-year-old daughter while walking through the busiest terminal of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
Steinmetz, who was arrested but not charged over the incident, spoke publicly about his actions on Monday.
“Put simply, I decided to make the point that a peaceful citizen can openly and responsibly carry a firearm – including an AR-15 – for the protection of themselves and their community,” Steinmetz said in a statement read at a news conference, according to Reuters.
He said he was not pointing the gun at anyone, had no intention of hurting anybody, and that he is “an educated and responsible gun owner” who kept the firearm’s safety on while at the airport.
Steinmetz, a medical researcher at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, said he was exercising his Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. He said he chose the airport for this statement given the Transportation Security Administration “disarms people and subjects them to gross invasions of their privacy.”
Police detained Steinmetz, who was then temporarily held in jail on suspicion of two felony counts of disorderly conduct with a weapon over incident. Steinmetz told police during his arrest that he was simply getting coffee and that he had no reason to be at the airport.
The case is still up for further police investigation, the county attorney’s office said Monday.
The arrest is the second weapons-related incident Steinmetz, 54, has had with police, according to Sergeant Steve Martos, a Phoenix police spokesman
In November, the neuroscientist was questioned while on his way to pick up his wife at the airport, Martos said. Steinmetz’s son, a minor, was also armed. Neither was cited at the time for carrying weapons, Martos added.
Steinmetz has been placed on administrative leave, according to hospital officials.