Armed student participation in open-carry gun walk shot down

Andrew Atkins

The university has decided not to suspend weapon policies for students participating in an open-carry gun walk.

Students planning to participate in an open-carry gun walk on Kent State’s campus will not be allowed to carry firearms.

While openly carrying a firearm is legal in the state of Ohio, there are restrictions.

Students, faculty and staff (with the exception of police) are prohibited from possessing a weapon on university property at any time in accordance with administrative policy. Visitors to Kent State may openly carry on-campus but may not enter university facilities or buildings.

The university will not suspend these weapon policies for the event, according to an email from Eric Mansfield, executive director of university media relations.

The organizer of the walk, Jeffry Smith, said in an email that “students are poorer because of this decision.”

The walk, set to take place Sept. 24 from noon to 4 p.m., is meant to open a dialogue, Smith said.

“Open carry of firearms gets people asking questions. ‘What are you guys doing? What’s this about? I didn’t know you could do that,’ ” Smith said in a phone interview. “This is a peaceful exercise of rights.”

This won’t be the first walk that Smith has organized.

Smith has organized walks at the University of Cincinnati, The Ohio State University, The University of Akron, Bowling Green State University and Miami University. Kent State is the first university that has denied armed student participation.

Smith’s walk comes after House Bill 48, which allows the decision to permit concealed weapons on a college campus, to the board of trustees.

Matthew Chernesky, a junior political science major, said he worried “it might foster a culture of fear and make a lot of students uncomfortable on campus.”

“I support Second Amendment rights, but we have a young community here that might be in bad situations, where weapons might not be appropriate,” Chernesky said.

Kent State’s College Democrats President Hana Barkowitz has mixed feelings.

“I do not support guns. I think there’s too much gun violence. I think we need more gun control, but I do support gun education and I do support freedom of speech and the right to protest,” Barkowitz said.

Barkowitz said she also feared something could go wrong.

“A lot of gun-related deaths are accidental,” she said. “The fact that they’re going to be carrying a lot of guns at the same time just seems like a recipe for disaster, in my opinion.”

Kent State Gun/Shooting Club President Kristoff Haynes said, “We’re a gun club. We’re not political. We have to respect the laws, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

 Andrew Atkins is an administration reporter, contact him at [email protected]