Bob Girard said he was angered when he met a 22-year-old man with a loaded AR-15 semi-automatic rifle strapped to his shoulder Sunday evening at the Kroger store on Hydraulic Road and Emmet Street.
“He said he was exercising his Second Amendment right,” Girard, the owner of Charlottesville-based Hurricane City Tees, said Monday. “He got me angry because I could see a kind of smile on his face.”
Girard said he left the store with a carton of ice cream; the unidentified man left empty-handed.
“He wasn’t there to shop. He was there to show off,” Girard said.
No charges were filed against the man toting the rifle, Charlottesville Lt. Ronnie Roberts said. According to Virginia law, people older than 18 who legally own a firearm can carry it openly. Residents 21 and older may apply for a permit to carry concealed weapons.
“Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should do something,” Girard said.
Stores, like Kroger, may disallow firearms on their property so long as a sign with that information is posted, Roberts said.
“We don’t have a lot to go on,” Roberts said, referring to charges.
Kroger banned the man from store property, officials said.
The store does not prohibit guns and the chain has not changed its gun policy in light of the incident, said spokesman Carl York .
“We treat each situation individually, based on the circumstance. In this case, it was alarming and frightening to our customers and associates due to recent events,” York said in an email statement.
A section of the state code does reflect differing stances on firearms among local communities. In 13 of the state’s most populous cities and counties, it is unlawful to carry in public a loaded semi-automatic center-fire rifle or pistol that is equipped with a magazine that will hold more than 20 rounds of ammunition, designed to accommodate a silencer or equipped with a folding stock.
City Councilor Dede Smith said the incident was disturbing but she didn't know what action the council could take.
"I haven't had a chance to talk to our legal folks about what the city can do," Smith said. "I think that the idea that somebody can walk into a public space like that with a weapon like that is outrageous."
The General Assembly has blocked some proposals to restrict where Virginians may carry guns. Legislators are considering measures to boost school security, including one allowing armed security guards in private schools.
A bill sponsored by Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William, would allow teachers and others to be trained and carry a concealed weapon in public schools. It has been referred to Gov. Bob McDonnell’s school-safety task force.
On Friday, a House committee advanced a proposed measure to bar state officials from helping the federal government carry out any federal gun control measures enacted after Dec. 31.
Calls to the National Rifle Association requesting comment were not returned.
Staff writer Aaron Richardson and The Richmond Times-Dispatch contributed to this story.