The young man who has drawn national attention recently by taking walks through a Severn neighborhood with an AR-15-style rifle said Monday he is hoping to form a protective, political militia of “similar-minded” community members.
“I’m trying to build the community and connect us somehow,” J’Den McAdory told The Capital on a sun-drenched afternoon as he walked past clusters of townhomes with manicured lawns, rifle in hand. “If I’m going to do that, I have to have a well-regulated militia. I have to have that with the way I’m trying to push things.”
Private militias are prohibited by the Maryland Constitution unless authorized by the state.
Wearing a “Make America Great Again” baseball cap, McAdory, 20, said he has been strolling through his neighborhood with a semiautomatic rifle for months to protest against gun control laws, destigmatize firearms, and a myriad of other reasons.
Though neighbors have made repeated complaints to law enforcement and local officials, tensions boiled over last week with a stream of media coverage that included former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki retweeting a photo of the Severn man.
As McAdory’s demonstrations have gained more attention, other gun owners have joined him.
On Monday, talking with Michal Deangelo Billups, a neighbor who was inspired by the protest walks and was toting an unloaded shotgun, McAdory addressed several political and cultural topics: gender-neutral bathrooms, creating equal financial opportunity, the need for male leaders in the community and stand-your-ground laws in the state.
Though McAdory’s rifle had a magazine inside, Billups said his shotgun, a Remington Model 870, was secured with a lock provided by the Anne Arundel County Public Library system. Working with the Department of Health, the county library system began a free gun lock program last month at the Busch Annapolis, Eastport-Annapolis Neck and Glen Burnie branches.
According to court records, Billups was chased, arrested and released Friday after police saw him steal the rainbow-colored hearts off an LGBTQ+ sign outside an Odenton church.
“It doesn’t have to be in sync,” McAdory said of the beliefs influencing his group, which he now claims numbers in the “hundreds.” “It’s not just one message and one idea. It’s a lot of goals collaborating and a lot of ideas collaborating.”
As a legal gun owner who is not required to have a permit to open carry his long gun, McAdory’s walks with his AR-15-style rifle are legal in Maryland and will remain legal under the new measures Gov. Wes Moore signed into law last week. Following recent and extensive news coverage, however, the walks have drawn mixed reactions from the public and public officials.
Moore issued a statement calling McAdory’s actions “cowardly and intimidating.”
On Monday, passersby honked their horns and gestured their support. Others asked questions and one man even posed for a picture. Conversely, in the last several days, McAdory has been met by protesters and challenged by the county law office and the Moore administration.
In a letter delivered Thursday, Anne Arundel County Attorney Gregory J. Swain warned the Severn man — who one day wants to join the military — that his conduct could result in prosecution, saying he was facing charges of assault, harassment, stalking, disturbing the peace and obstruction of school administration.
McAdory told The Capital he has contacted the National Rifle Association about Swain’s letter and after speaking with education officials, agreed not to be outside with the gun when children are being dropped off from school.
“I’m compromising for them,” McAdory said Monday, “but it’s not a rule.”
In letters and statements from the last week, school officials acknowledged McAdory’s right to do what he is doing but have said his actions create fear as well. In a letter to parents and staff Thursday, Severn Elementary School Principal Isaphine Smith asked parents to increase their presence at bus stops, advised students not to engage with him and encouraged everyone to report any interactions to the school or police.
McAdory said Monday he has spoken with county law enforcement about his plans. When asked how they responded, he said, “I think they’re all for it. That’s what it seems like. You know, for this thing to work, we will have to be cordial with law enforcement. We will have to work together because we’re all on the same page.”
Marc Limansky, a police department spokesperson, declined to comment Monday on McAdory’s claims.
The Anne Arundel County Police Department said in a statement last week they have received “numerous calls” about McAdory’s presence in the community and have remained in “constant contact” with the public school system and the state’s attorney’s office.
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