Dec 24, 8:47 AM EST

Man with AK-47-style gun in park detained, let go

Associated Press Writer

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- A man carrying an AK-47-style semiautomatic pistol was detained at Radnor Lake State Park on Sunday after startled hikers complained to park rangers.

Ellen Thomas told WSMV-TV she was hiking an upper trail when she encountered 37-year-old Leonard Embody wearing a camouflage jacket, military boots and a black skull cap. She called the encounter "scary."

State Department of Environment and Conservation spokeswoman Tisha Calabrese-Benton said Embody was detained by park rangers because his weapon looked like a rifle.

After the gun was secured and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives personnel were called, Embody was released without charges because he has a handgun carry permit.

Calabrese-Benton said the gun had no stock and the barrel was under 11 inches, however state attorneys are still investigating whether the AK-47-style pistol, with a 30-round magazine, is legal to carry as a handgun.

The state legislature passed a law earlier this year allowing people with handgun permits to carry their weapons in parks.

John Pierce is a co-founder of, a group that seeks to normalize the open carry of "properly holstered handguns" as people go about their lives.

"On a fundamental level, I don't think he did anything wrong," Pierce said of Embody, "but politically that might not be best thing to do and it's not something we're advocating for."

Pierce said wearing camouflage also perpetuates an unhelpful stereotype.

Pierce said he lived in Bristol, Va., for years, right on Tennessee border. He said he has openly carried a holstered, normal-sized handgun in Tennessee numerous times and never had anyone complain about it.