PHOENIX - A neurological researcher arrested last month after police say he pointed a loaded rifle toward a woman and her teenage daughter inside Phoenix's main airport said Monday he was trying to make a political statement. Peter Steinmetz, 54, was carrying the AR-15 rifle July 25 in the public zone of Sky Harbor International Airport's Terminal 4. A court document says Steinmetz removed the rifle from his shoulder, causing the muzzle to face the women who told police they feared for their lives.
Steinmetz insisted his firearm "was never pointed at anyone" and that the safety catch was engaged. "I am a peaceful political activist and my purpose in walking around the airport with my AR-15 rifle was entirely political in nature," he told reporters. "I am also an educated and responsible gun owner.” Guns are permitted in public in Arizona, including the unrestricted zone of the airport. But "it certainly was concerning to other passengers … not knowing why this individual was walking around with an assault rifle slung over his arm," Phoenix Sgt. Steve Martos said. Steinmetz, a researcher at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, is on administrative leave, Dignity Health's St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center said.