Kaitlin Bennett Visits UA, Vows Open Carry Return

During a visit to The University of Akron, the gun rights activist drew a small crowd and revealed plans for an “open carry walk” to be held on campus.


Jake Herron

Kaitlin Bennett, commonly known as the Kent State “gun girl” speaks during her visit to The University of Akron on Thursday.

By Jake Herron, Online Editor

A visit to The University of Akron by Kaitlin Bennett, better known as the Kent State “gun girl,” drew reactions from a small crowd that formed around her at the center of the UA campus on Thursday, Nov. 29.

Initially armed with a microphone and video camera, Bennett said she originally intended to interview UA students about immigration, but soon found herself defending her stance on the Second Amendment instead.

“I came to do a man-on-the-street interview video on immigration and the Trump Administration using tear gas,” Bennett explained. “That’s what I was doing until people realized I was on campus. Then, it turned to people talking about guns.”

Jake Herron
With a microphone in hand, Kaitlin Bennett engages in discourse with UA student.

Bennett, 22, gained internet fame when a graduation photo of herself carrying an AR-10 rifle on the campus of her alma mater, Kent State University, went viral.

The photo quickly drew criticism as Kent State is historically known as the place where four students were shot and killed by members of the Ohio National Guard during anti-war protests on May 4, 1970.

Bennett spent much of her time at UA on Thursday outside Bierce Library talking with students and community members, both critics and supporters, who had gathered around her.

Zach Thomas, an EMS tech major, saw the crowd and stopped to observe.

“I’m an Independent, I totally agree and I feel that other points people are making are valid. But I’m a pro-gun person, so I support her,” Thomas said.

Some students were quick to seize the opportunity to shout insults aimed at the gun rights activist, something Bennett has become accustomed to.

“I have that platform now where I don’t have to do anything, I just have to walk on campus and people swarm,” Bennett said. “I could have a conversation with almost anybody and I think that’s great because I can change people’s minds, maybe open their minds a little bit and I can’t ask for anything more than that.”

Jake Herron
Kaitlin Bennett listens as a UA student talks about gun policy in the United States.

Others, however, had reasons to not be welcoming toward Bennett.

With fears heightened following the incident in which a gun was smuggled on campus and accidentally discharged, putting the campus on a brief lockdown, some felt the gun rights activist’s visit was inappropriate.

“Especially after the shooting that just occurred here last week, it’s just disrespectful,” one student said.

While Bennett’s visit was generally peaceful, officers from The University of Akron Police Department monitored the event from a distance.

Jake Herron
Officers from The University of Akron Police Department keep watch during Kaitlin Bennett’s visit to UA.

“She’s not as scary as she makes herself out to be,” Larry Jensen, a biomedical engineering major, said.

State law allows for the open carry of firearms on public property, including public universities such as KSU and UA, though does not allow for carry in university buildings. 
Students and staff are prohibited from possessing firearms on campus altogether.

Bennett led an “open carry walk” earlier this year at Kent State as hundreds of gun-carrying supporters joined and were met by several counter-protesters.

A large police presence kept incidents to a minimum and only four arrests were made.

Bennett revealed during her visit that she plans to hold a similar walk at UA in the future. Several supporting students immediately offered their assistance in planning the event.

University officials have not yet commented on the potential open carry walk to be led by Bennett.

As a public institution, UA cannot censor free speech on campus so long as it does not infringe on the rights of others or interfere with the educational process.

Kaitlin Bennett reveals plans for an “open carry walk” at on the UA campus in the near future.

“I want to do it. I will do it. It will happen,” Bennett vowed.