A staged photo of a young woman carrying an AR-10 and a graduation cap reading, "Come and take it," dramatically walking away from the camera, went viral on Twitter over the weekend.
"Now that I graduated from @KentState, I can finally arm myself on campus," reads her tweet's caption. "I should have been able to do so as a student- especially since 4 unarmed students were shot and killed by the government on this campus. #CampusCarryNow"
The woman in question is Kaitlin Bennett, a recent graduate who decided to pose with the weapon to promote her second amendment rights. She's also the founder of Kent State's chapter of a right-wing media outlet called Liberty Hangout, which is prone to posting racist and inflammatory memes on Facebook.
Bennett's post received mixed reactions in light of recent school shootings. But as shocking as the attention-grabbing photo may seem to some, Kent State's university policy allows visitors, though not students — Bennett is now technically a visitor — to possess, store, or use deadly weapons "while outside on university grounds." Ohio is an open-carry state where the rules regarding guns on campus are largely up to the universities themselves.
The university confirmed that what Bennett did is legal to Refinery29: "Graduates are no longer considered students and would be permitted to open-carry, per the university policy," said Eric Mansfield, the school's executive director of media relations. He added that Bennett had notified the university police department of her photo shoot.
Bennett's argument is based on the assumption that people are safer when there are fewer gun restrictions, but there is little evidence to suggest this. While the campus-carry debate is relatively recent, what research has been done around the subject suggests the opposite. "Many states relaxed restrictions on concealed and open carrying of firearms based on claims that such policies reduced violent crime," according to a 2016 report by Johns Hopkins University. "But the best available evaluations of these policies indicate that these right-to-carry laws increase violence."
As a Black woman, it's hard for 19-year-old Kent State sophomore Aliah Kimbro to support Bennett when she knows her own gun rights "aren't safe anywhere," she told Refinery29. "To see that tweet, 'Come and take it,' as if lives weren't taken on that campus due to gun violence, just shocked me," she said. "Kent became an open-carry campus in the last year and there were many protests from that, the incident of May 4 not forgotten."
On May 4, 1970, members of the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd of students protesting the U.S. bombing of Cambodia at Kent State, killing four and wounding nine. Bennett's tweet suggests that had these students been armed, they would have somehow been able to protect themselves against the random rounds being fired at them from a distance, as they were running away.
We've reached out to Kaitlin Bennett and will update this story when we hear back.
Read these stories next: