Kaitlin Bennett | Twitter
In 1970, 28 guardsmen fired approximately 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds murdering four unarmed Kent State University students and injuring another nine during a protest over Americans bombing Cambodia. Forty-eight years later, Kaitlin Bennett posed with an AR-10 rifle and a mortarboard cap reading "come and take it" on campus in honor of her graduation.
Now that she has graduated and is no longer a student, Bennett was expressing her freedom to carry as the campus prohibits students, faculty, and staff from carrying deadly weapons. Bennett's photo has sparked both support and outrage online, and has ignited a conversation about #CampusCarryNow, a movement encouraging college students the right to openly carry on campus.
Since the photos' debut on May 13, Bennett has appeared on Fox & Friends
, stating her motivation for the photos was to "take a jab at the insulting policies that Kent State has regarding arming their students." She continued, "It's unacceptable that they allow guests to carry but not students."
Bennett is the director of Kent State University's Liberty Hangout
a grassroots libertarian media outlet, and claims a discussion on gun rights on campus at this group was a deciding factor in why she chose to take the photos. Bennett had notified the university that she was going to be taking the photos and was escorted by a campus police officer throughout the photoshoot.
"I was not expecting the blatant racism that’s been thrown at me," Bennett told Fox & Friends' correspondent, Steve Doocy. "They're saying I have white privilege for going out on campus with my AR-10."
Regardless of Bennett's legal right to express freedom of speech by taking the photos and her right to bear arms by possessing the AR-10, the question remains whether or not this was a wise move from an ethical or meaningful standpoint.
First things first, Bennett absolutely has white privilege
in being able to safely take these photos. While someone like Bennett is able to be escorted by a campus police officer to express her opinions on gun control, protestors in Ferguson and Baltimore put their lives at stake to protest police brutality.
Historically speaking, gun rights are rooted in white privilege
. In the times of Colonial America, almost all English colonies passed legislation forbidding women and slaves to own guns and prohibited the sale of guns to native peoples. This was not a matter of safety, it was a means to keep people disenfranchised and allow white men to maintain power.
In terms of gun rights today, Philando Castile was shot by police in 2015 while following proper procedure and announcing he had a legal handgun in his vehicle. Despite being a legal gun owner, the NRA (who is always the first to speak up whenever gun rights appear to be "infringed upon") remained silent and did nothing in response to his death.
White privilege is having the NRA come to the rescue while black men are murdered for following proper and legal protocol.
The other major piece of this puzzle is where
these photos were taken. The Kent State massacre was not an instance of unarmed students without the opportunity to defend themselves. These were students protesting in favor of peace.
Even if Kent allowed students to carry weapons on campus during 1970, the students that were senselessly murdered would not have been the type to carry a weapon.
In 2014, Urban Outfitters received a massive amount of backlash for selling a distressed Kent State sweatshirt that appeared to be blood-soaked
. The universal response was one of outrage as they felt the design was in poor taste.
According to Bennett, the decision to pose with the AR-10 was merely symbolic. “On campus I would never carry an AR-10 for self-defense,” she said to Fox & Friends. “There’s so many people who aren’t getting it — it’s just a photo shoot.”
How lucky she is to live in a world where someone that looks like her can walk in public with an assault rifle on her back and it be "just a photo shoot."
Here's a look at what the internet is saying: