University protestors counter "Gun Girl"
Updated: May 11, 2022
Controversial "Kent State gun girl" Kaitlin Bennett has come back in the news after having been chased away from Ohio University by protestors. I don't know what I find most astonishing about the situation: the lack of injuries or arrests or the fact that the protestors successfully removed Bennett from campus. It feels like just yesterday that Richard Spencer, the coiner of the term "alt-right," couldn't be stopped from speaking at Auburn University, and he had a handful of supporters escorted by police to attend his event at Michigan State University. Still, Bennett's tweet claiming that she will "bring an army of gun owners for an open carry walk through campus," is concerning.
It would be easier to dismiss the gun in that viral photo as a provocative photo prop if the photo was posted without its caption. However, her claim that the 1970 Kent State massacre would not have happened if the university had open carry policies is asinine, to say the least. It's naive at best to believe that the U.S. National Guard would see armed college students and respond calmly. It's even sadder that the tragedy was manipulated to fit an agenda that is antithetical to the purpose of the protest in 1970.
This leads to the question: how desperate is the pro-Second Amendment movement for a gun rights activist? If such a prominent face of the movement is someone who claimed she needed an AR-10 to protect herself, yet also had police to escort her to ensure her safety (so much for self-protection) and didn't actually own a gun until months later, they must be desperate.
This country needs to hold fruitful discussions about gun politics and gun safety now more than ever. Yet it feels impossible when half of the conversation appears to be dominated by the rhetoric that Bennett expressed when she proudly exclaimed: "as an American, I do not need to care about any other part of the world."
It's ironic. By addressing this incident, I'm arguably helping her build her platform. Part of me hopes that she's provocative for the sake of attention, and is merely playing into the "gun girl" character she's built. This hope dies out a little more every time I see her name pop up in the media, but I'll hold onto it for as long as I can for my sanity's sake. Or at least, until the conversation on guns becomes less about personal agenda and more about public safety.