Her name is Kaitlin Bennett, otherwise known as the “Kent State gun girl.”
You might also think of her as the anti-David Hogg. She supports the Second Amendment and is holding an Open Carry Walk through the Kent State campus on Saturday, Sept. 29.
The event was initially planned as a full-fledged rally, with speakers on the campus’s central plaza, but was downgraded to a “walk” after threats of counter-protests by antifa groups who had slanderously labeled Bennett’s event as a “white supremacist rally.” The university, which prides itself as a place where diverse opinions can be expressed, also pushed back against Bennett’s rally.
I will be continuing with my open carry walk at Kent State on September 29th as planned. I look forward to seeing everyone there! pic.twitter.com/PF6nPmPhiE
— Kaitlin Bennett (@KaitMarieox) September 22, 2018
Bennett said she decided to “take a step back” and cancel the pro-Second Amendment speakers and not advertise her event as a “rally.” But the event will still take place and, as Bennett has assured her antagonist, Hogg, in a recent Facebook video, “there will still be guns on campus. We plan to open carry.” Watch her below:
Hogg used the tragedy of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting as a political opportunity to rally students nationwide against the Second Amendment, radicalizing them around the idea that guns are bad and the NRA is a “terrorist” organization.
Bennett, on the other hand, is the face of responsible gun ownership. She is a recent graduate of Kent State with a degree in biology. She has become an activist who is trying to counter the propaganda of Hogg and others playing out in the media and on college campuses. Guns aren’t inherently bad. In the hands of law-abiding Americans, they can actually save lives.
Take for example the car and knife attack at Ohio State University in 2016. If a campus cop had not been near the scene of the attack and almost immediately opened fire on the attacker, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, he would have almost certainly gone on a killing spree that day. As it was, he injured 11 people, three of them seriously.
Unlike Hogg, who came to fame instantly after he was promoted by the mainstream media following the tragedy in Florida, Bennett has grown her following organically.
She became a viral sensation and face of the university gun-rights movement after her graduation photos were taken last year with an AR-10 slung over her back. Since then, as grassroots director for Liberty Hangout, she’s become an activist advocating for campus-carry laws across the U.S.
Unlike Hogg, who is known for his nasty tirades full of obscenities, she keeps her messages free of belittling insults or vicious name-calling. She also has a sense of humor. See the video tweet she posted below:
Yesterday I went undercover at Kent State to ask students what they think about Kaitlin Bennett, the Kent State gun girl. Surprisingly no one recognized me until I took the glasses off. pic.twitter.com/SHLuzMYOez
— Kaitlin Bennett (@KaitMarieox) August 23, 2018
In the end, Bennett says she is comfortable with her decision to make Saturday’s rally a less formal event, canceling the speakers and making it more of a community informational event where gun owners will show up with their weapons in their holsters and engage students on the importance of the Second Amendment.
“It actually is a huge relief, because it kind of felt like my message was being lost through all of the chaos,” Bennett said. “It felt like different groups were trying to hijack the message and that wasn’t my goal. I would rather take a step back and go at this in a different way than let these people steer my message in a different way. Some people might see that as a loss. I am so relieved. I know that my group is relived as well, because now we can focus on just walking around campus and engaging students who are out there, instead of fighting with the school, instead of trying to worry about these different groups trying to claim the rally as something that I’s not. We still will be there September 29 but it will be in the form of a campus walk. So, David, there will be guns on the campus. We will be open carrying just around the campus, and engaging students that want to talk to us…We’re going to take the high road. I have no regrets, we’re going to be the bigger people here, because the message is more important. We will still be open carrying, I want to make that clear, it’s just not going to be in the form of a rally.”
Instead of speakers, she said the event will consist of people in the community who support campus carry, “engaging the students, showing their firearms. Our purpose is to normalize firearms on the campus, and a great conversation starter is to walk around with them. People can ask questions. We’re there to talk to students and I’m not going to let the university or any of these fringe groups try to hijack it or ruin it. My message is more important than trying to fight with people. And I think it’s going to turn out really, really great.”
One Facebook listener posted a comment saying he thought the decision reflected a failure for Bennett and Liberty Hangout. Bennett disagreed.
“I didn’t fail. I don’t think I failed at all. Failing would have been letting my message get lost in all of this chaos and all of these lies and the fighting with the university, that is a fail. Just not showing up in general, not engaging with students, not keeping the integrity of my message, that is a fail. And I’m smart enough and I’m mature enough to know when something is going wrong, and I needed to take a step back and maintain my integrity. So no one is going to shame me. I’m very happy with my decision.”
She said someone once told her that it’s critical to pick one’s battles smartly.
“You have to pick your battles to get to the war. And ultimately, our Second Amendment rights and convincing people to stand up for them, that’s the big goal here. And if I have to scale back during a couple of battles, it’s worth it and it’s fine. So anyone who was concerned about the speakers, they’re not even going to be there. It’s just going to be people in the community that support this message, and we will talk one on one with students and I think it’s going to be great.”
The time for the event remains the same, 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29.
This is the @KentState secretary who refused to schedule me a meeting with the administration about my open carry rally, after the Dean of Students agreed to meet. Kent State staff has a clear & disgusting bias against gun owners & the 2nd amendment. This should not be tolerated. pic.twitter.com/u1dGTDJCeE
— Kaitlin Bennett (@KaitMarieox) September 1, 2018
As grassroots director, Kaitlin works to bring Liberty Hangout chapters to universities across the United States. Her stated goal is to empower liberty lovers and conservatives to have the same voice as her on campus, and on social media, the face of growing censorship.
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Anthony Accardi is a writer and reporter for The Ohio Star.