Open-carry advocates draw crowd, create peaceful discussion about gun rights

Demonstrators gathered around the K on Friday, April 27 during the open-carry demonstration. The event gathered a handful of people from Ohio, and even Kentucky, in support of gun rights and the second amendment.

Addie Gall

Open and concealed-carry advocates gathered on Risman Plaza Friday. Many Second Amendment advocates wore stickers that said “guns save lives” and carried their firearms as well.

Kaitlin Bennett, one of the co-organizers of the event, the president of Kent State’s Liberty Hangout chapter and a senior biology major, said they converged to create the opportunity for dialogue with others about the importance of the Second Amendment.

According to EveryTown for Gun Safety, there have been more than 300 school shootings in America since 2013 — an average of about one a week. This increase in gun violence sparked a growing debate on whether gun legislation needs to be changed.

The university sent out an email to all students and staff to make them aware of the demonstration. The email reminded students, staff and faculty they are not permitted to carry firearms on campus, but visitors could, and no weapons are allowed inside a university building. The email also told students there would be a police presence, and the demonstration was not affiliated with the university.

The demonstration was co-organized by Bennett and Jeffry Smith, a gun rights advocate and firearms instructor from Cincinnati, who has organized similar demonstrations in the past.

Bennett, who has previously criticized those unwilling to have an open discussion about gun legislation, said dialogue was the main purpose of the demonstration.

“We want to show people we are responsible and open to conversation,” Bennett said.

As the number of gun rights advocates grew on the plaza, conversations began to spark. 

Smith said it was a success and that creating peaceful conversation with others was important and was the purpose of the day.

“We wanted to spur dialogue about gun rights and privileges centered around a discussion that is rarely had,” Smith said.

Because university policy prohibits students from bringing their firearms on campus, many wore empty holsters or held signs to advocate for their Second Amendment right.

Mackenzie Catalano, a junior finance major, held one that read, “Gun rights are LGBTQ+ rights.”

Catalano said, as a gay man, he wants to be able to protect himself from those who wish him harm.

“I hope that people understand what they are advocating for,” Catalano said.

Not all those who attended the demonstration were in favor of open carry. Greg Fisher, a Kent resident, dressed in red, white and blue, and sported a hat that made him resemble Uncle Sam.

“How many times have you seen a gun actually stop a gunman?” Fisher said. “Get rid of the guns, get rid of the killing.”

In the wake of recent mass shootings such as the one in Parkland, the debate on gun legislation seems to have received an increase in attention, even on Kent State’s own campus.

“You have to educate yourself,” Catalano said. “We want people to know that people with guns are not scary.”

Addie Gall is the student politics reporter. Contact her at [email protected].