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Charges dismissed for gun rights advocate who walked around Nashville with assault rifle

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NASHVILLE, Tennessee — A Nashville judge has dismissed charges against a man who walked around downtown last year wearing a bullet-proof vest and carrying an assault rifle with a silencer.

Leonard Embody has carried out a series of similarly provocative, but legal, actions in recent years and says he has no plans to stop.

The recent charges stem from a July 29, 2013, incident where Embody was arrested after he refused to answer questions from police. Officers also confiscated his AR-15, which was in a case made of moldable plastic that exactly fit the outline of the weapon with a magazine and silencer attached. Once the case was opened, police found the weapon was unloaded and there was no magazine, but there was a silencer.

On Thursday, Judge Randall Wyatt ordered that the rifle, case and silencer be returned to Embody. The order came two days after a ruling in which Wyatt admonished Embody for his conduct but found he had not violated state law.

Embody has been detained for similar actions in the past and has had his handgun carry permit revoked by the state, although he has not been convicted of any crime related to those actions. They include hiking around Radnor Lake State Park with an AK-47-style pistol in 2009 and walking around the upscale Nashville suburb of Belle Meade with a .44-caliber black powder revolver in his hand in 2010. He also has been stopped in at least three similar incidents.

Wyatt's opinion said that testimony showed it is legal to possess a rifle in public. It is also legal to possess a silencer, as long as it is registered with the federal government.

Embody, who had been handing out leaflets on the Second Amendment when he was arrested, had proof of registration with him but refused to show it to officers. The court found that state law requires him merely to retain, but not show, the registration.

Embody was a federally licensed firearms dealer at the time and said he purchased the silencer through his license.

"The Defendant may have been within his rights to possess the weapon and to refuse to speak to the officers, but the propriety of his conduct was seriously lacking," Wyatt wrote.

At a preliminary hearing last year, Metro Nashville Police Commander Jason Reinbold testified that he responded after dispatchers began receiving calls from panicked citizens about Embody.

"I was afraid there was a robbery or an active shooter situation taking place in downtown at one of the busiest times of day for pedestrian traffic," Reinbold said in court.

In his ruling, Wyatt advised Embody to "avoid situations like this in the future" for the safety of "the public, the police, and himself."

"The Defendant can exercise his Second Amendment rights without scaring or endangering the public, and without being uncooperative with a legitimate law enforcement investigation," Wyatt wrote.

In an email, Embody said he plans to repeat his actions.

He wrote, "I will walk downtown and carry a rifle and silencer soon while handing out second amendment leaflets as I did last year."

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