Those hoping that Kaitlin Bennett would simply go away and leave the Kent State University campus when she graduated in May 2017 have been sorely disappointed. As The New American reported at the time:
The day after she graduated from Kent State, Kaitlin Bennett celebrated not only the event but her freedom from her school’s restrictions on her Second Amendment rights. She posted provocative photos — she was wearing a short white dress — on her Facebook page showing her carrying an AR-10 semiautomatic rifle and her graduation mortar board, which was inscribed with the words “Come and Take it!”
Now that I graduated from Kent State, I can finally arm myself on campus. I should have been able to do so as a student — especially since four unarmed students were shot and killed by the government on this campus [in 1970].”
Not surprisingly, the combination of her pose, her posture, and her position caused her Facebook entry to go viral. On Tuesday [May 15, 2017] she added:
I have no apologies for my graduation photos. As a woman, I refuse to be a victim & the Second Amendment ensures that I don’t have to be.
After graduation, Bennett took a position with a local gun shop and continued her pro-gun activism. She has scuffled on social media with David Hogg, tweeting “I have a challenge for you. Let’s arm wrestle. If I win, we get to keep the 2nd Amendment. If you win, we turn in our guns. Deal?” When Hogg failed to respond she tweeted, “It’s alright guys, the 2nd Amendment is safe.”
But her high-profile activities have caught the attention of Fox and Friends, NRATV, and Alex Jones’ InfoWars, as well as protesters who have hounded her both on social media and in person. In July, Bennett tweeted:
Sitting here eating lunch when I just got a call from the FBI letting me know people have been reporting threats against me to them. Imagine being so peaceful and tolerant that you have the FBI looking into threats you make against blonde girls who support the 2nd amendment.
She and the group she founded and ran while on campus, Liberty Hangout, held an “open carry gun walk” on campus in September. So outraged were anti-gun groups that hundreds showed up in protest, forcing the university to hire between 300 and 400 SWAT officers, sheriff’s deputies, state troopers, and police from across the state to keep the peace. Hundreds of protestors showed up and four were arrested. It cost the university an estimated $65,000.
When Michael Heil, the student who took over Liberty Hangout after Bennett’s graduation, applied for permission to hold a meeting in the KSU student center to hear Bennett speak in November, the university approved on condition that his group come up with $1,800 to pay for security. Heil obtained the legal assistance of Freedom X law group out of Los Angeles, which filed suit against the university. Heil claimed that not only was the fee unfair, it rewarded protesters likely to show up with protection from their own illegal behaviors. As William Becker, the Freedom X lawyer, explained:
By assessing such security fees against the Plaintiffs, Defendants … are responsible for ratifying an unconstitutional heckler’s veto, taxing protected speech and rewarding those who disrespect the solemn and precious freedoms safeguarded by the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
Such a fee assessment against the student sponsors of the event effectively curtails their ability to hold it due to the high cost of security and amounts to a form of censorship and punishment.
Furthermore, wrote Becker, the fees were discriminatory and arbitrary:
KSU determines the amount of security fees it assesses against a group based upon the reaction to controversial speakers by hostile agitators.
KSU makes no pretense that its security policy at any location on campus shifts the financial burden for security to [Liberty Hangout].
On Tuesday a federal judge stopped Kent State from charging Heil and his group the security fee and the meeting went ahead, with Kaitlin Bennett as the speaker, on Monday night.
The judge, John Adams, said he was “gravely concerned” that the school’s policy might infringe on Bennett’s and the group’s First Amendment rights by using Bennett’s past history of pro-gun activism to determine whether or not she would be allowed to speak. Adams added, “We can’t allow protestors to shift the [financial] burden to the speaker and her organization.”
He issued the temporary order until a full hearing on the matter takes place in early December.