KENT — A handful of people gathered Monday night for a discussion on gun rights hosted by Kent State’s viral “gun girl.”
Kent State graduate Kaitlin Bennett and gun-rights student group Liberty Hangout organized Monday's discussion, titled “Let’s Talk Gun Rights," in the Kiva on Kent State's main campus.
Unlike a tense Sept. 29 open carry walk that attracted about 150 supporters, twice as many protesters and hundreds of police and other peacekeepers, there were no protesters or disruptions at Monday's gathering. Bennett, who founded Kent State’s chapter of the organization, and her boyfriend, Liberty Hangout founder Justin Moldow, hosted the 40-minute discussion followed by a question-and-answer session attended by about 40 people, including Bennett’s family.
There was also a heavy police presence Monday during the mostly quiet presentation, which was held during a week when many students had already left campus for the holiday.
Bennett and Moldow began the night with a half-hour education session on guns and state and federal guns laws.
“Our property rights and gun rights are just,” Bennett said. “They're moral, they're ethical and they can't be infringed upon.”
They said people have rights to the property they own, and that should include firearms — the government shouldn’t be able to take those away, they said, with Moldow also citing the Second Amendment.
Bennett added the U.S. should have no gun laws, listing background checks, restrictions on magazine capacity, waiting periods and concealed carry licenses as “infringement” from the government.
“The government does not have the right to legislate what people do with their property,” Bennett said.
She said private firearms companies should instead be responsible for background checks. She cited an instance at the Cuyahoga Falls gun store she works at, Pro Armament, in which she said a man's domestic violence conviction didn't show up on an FBI background check but did on the store’s background check.
The couple also said students should be allowed to conceal carry on their campuses. They said in Ohio, it’s illegal for both students and guests to conceal carry on public universities, but guests are allowed to open carry.
“Someone is insinuating that they care more about the lives of guests rather than their students,” Bennett said of the restrictions on students. “It's so insulting to me.”
Bennett said she’s received death and rape threats, and although she’s now graduated, she wants other students in similar situations to feel safe on campus.
“Violence doesn't stop when someone steps on campus,” she said. “It doesn't end, just like my right to self-defense does not end when I step onto campus.”
And Bennett added she doesn’t want everyone to carry guns on campus, nor is she calling on firearms to actually be used. She said they act as a deterrent that can prevent violent situations.
“Campus carry means allowing the people who can legally have a handgun the option to protect themselves on campus,” she said.
Police were prepared for disruptions. Kent State University Police Chief Dean Tondiglia said in an affidavit there were some additional security needs, in part because the FBI has said there have been two credible death threats against Bennett.
For the Sept. 29 event, Kent State paid $65,000 in security because the event was not sponsored by a student organization, according to a KSU lawyer’s email that was part of the lawsuit filing.
The status of Monday’s discussion was up in the air until last week, when a federal judge barred Kent State from charging Liberty Hangout an estimated $1,800 for security at Monday's event.
Judge John Adams granted a temporary restraining order on the security fee following a hearing in U.S. District Court in Akron, saying he was “gravely concerned” that imposing the fee would impinge on the students’ and Bennett’s free-speech rights, according to Cleveland.com.
Adams is set to rule Dec. 13 on the student group’s request for a preliminary injunction that would continue the prohibition on charging the fees, which Kent State has said would pay for eight police officers and six “hall security” personnel.
William Becker, president of the Freedom X legal group in Los Angeles representing Liberty Hangout, and Liberty Hangout at Kent State president Michael Heil previously said the group wouldn’t be able to hold Monday’s event if it had to pay the fee.
Kent State spokesman Eric Mansfield said last week that the university “will provide the same security without cost for the organization’s Nov. 19 event, and the university will withhold sending an invoice pending the outcome of the December hearing” on the preliminary injunction request.
Beacon Journal reporter Emily Mills can be reached at 330-996-3334, firstname.lastname@example.org and @EmilyMills818. Brandon Bounds can be reached at 330-996-3762, email@example.com