Law State The “Kent State gun girl” said her gun rally will go on as scheduled, despite setbacks By Ben Peters Posted on September 18, 2018 10 min read 0 0 297 Kaitlin Bennett planned to hold an open-carry rally on Kent State's campus. Photo from Kaitlin Bennett Editor’s Note: Kaitlin Bennett officially changed the rally to a “walk” and confirmed that there will be no speakers in attendance as of Tuesday Sept. 18. Kaitlin Bennett is determined to hold her open-carry rally on Sept. 29 even though the university is prohibiting firearms at student events. Kaitlin Bennett, the viral “Kent State University gun girl,” is planning on hosting an open-carry gun rally on her alma mater’s campus, but she said not all is going as planned. Kent State University issued a statement on Friday, Sept. 14 approving the rally, but declared, along with other provisions, that no guns will be permitted. Bennett and the conservative student group Liberty Hangout have been working with KSU for nearly a month to arrange the rally, but were not informed of the new terms until this past Friday, Bennett said. Because Liberty Hangout is a student organization, its events and all participants, students or not, must follow KSU’s “student activity policies,” in this case specifically the Policy Regarding Deadly Weapons. “Students, staff, faculty, and third parties doing business with the university are further prohibited from possessing, storing, or using a deadly weapon while outside on university grounds, that is owned, operated or leased by the university,” an excerpt from the policy reads. However in Ohio, citizens are allowed to open-carry firearms in public without a license. Bennett assured that there would be no rally attendees who fell into any of KSU’s firearm policy categories, be it student, staff, faculty, or third party, who planned on open-carrying. “You’d think that the administration would care enough about the students to say like ‘hey we know you want to have an open carry rally with firearms, but if you register it and sponsor it from your club we’re going to use the policy against you,’” Bennett said. The news came a week and a half after the administration issued a cease and desist letter to Bennett, ordering that she stop advertising the open-carry rally because, at the time, she was not sponsored by a student organization. According to Bennett, students involved with Liberty Hangout at KSU met with the administration to allow their student group to sponsor the event with her. However, getting a group sponsored by a university club isn’t the only requirement KSU has for individuals wanting to demonstrate on campus. Paying security expenses and reserving event space weeks in advance are other tasks that must be completed prior to the event. Previously, Bennett understood that there would be a required security fee, but the university didn’t give an estimate until this past Friday, she said The university is requiring Liberty Hangout to pay for seven hours worth of security fees, which is totaling at least $14,000, Bennett said, however, Liberty Hangout planned on the rally only lasting for three hours. Part of the security fee will go toward enclosing the rally with bike racks to leave only one entrance and exit point where people will be inspected upon arrival and departure. “There’s ridiculous safety measures we have to pay,” Bennett said. “No student group can come up with $14,000 to do this event in two weeks.” Bennett feels that groups wanting to protest her message are getting prioritized over her own rally by the university. She cited that bike locks are prohibited at the rally, which, according to Bennett, is likely due to groups like antifa, short for anti-fascists, using them as weapons during past protests. “It’s almost as if they are catering to these people who want to protest (our event), or claim they’re going to be there, … by basically hindering our ability to do this event,” Bennett said. The statement released on Friday said Liberty Hangout didn’t reserve a space four weeks in advance for the venue that would host the guest speakers, which is a university policy. Because of this, Bennett said, it’s unlikely that there will be speakers at the event. Liberty Hangout’s president called the university on Friday regarding the statement, but has yet to hear back, Bennett said. “I assume they did this whole stunt on Friday because they knew that the university would have two days off for the weekend,” Bennett said. Liberty Hangout then sent a letter on Friday to the university explaining their position; if the university holds to their statement, then Bennett will turn the rally into a walk. If Liberty Hangout doesn’t officially host the event through their student organization, she said, the attendees will just be civilians carrying guns within a public space. “It’s literally unlawful to say that there is a certain space where you can’t have guns and you can’t tell people from the public that if they enter this certain space they can’t have guns,” Bennett said. “Kent State is really pushing it with trying to take the policy they have and think they are above the law. They should really watch out, because if it comes to it, we will take legal action.” Dr. Eddith Dashiell, a communication law professor with the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, acknowledged that a Second Amendment issue could be present, but she also believed that Bennett will have a hard time building a First Amendment case against the KSU administration. “If she can demonstrate that the cost they’re saying she has to pay is exorbitant compared to the cost other groups have had to pay for security … that would point to viewpoint discrimination,” Dashiell said. The New Political reached out to Eric Mansfield, a Kent State spokesperson, for comment. He only referred back to the issued statement. As of publication, the walk is still scheduled for Sept. 29.