Why she wore an assault-style rifle at graduation

17 May 2018 | Canada
Why she wore an assault-style rifle at graduation

Kaitlin Bennett graduated from Kent State University in Ohio with a degree in biology.

The following day, the 22-year-old returned to the campus with an AR-10 semi-automatic rifle strapped to her back and posed for photographs while holding a graduation cap emblazoned with the words "come and take it".

Bennett, who later posted the photographs on Twitter, says she was protesting against a university policy that prohibited students, professors and employees from carrying "lethal weapons" on campus - but allows "guests" to possess them on school grounds (but not in buildings).

She noted that Kent State was the location where "four unarmed students were shot and killed by the government" - a reference to the 1970 incident where soldiers clashed with Vietnam War protesters, firing shots that hit 13 protesters and bystanders.

Her tweet generated more than 4,800 retweets and 19,000 likes, sparking a swirl of publicity - both positive and negative.

In subsequent social media posts and interviews, Bennett explained herself.

Self-defence

In a Facebook post, Bennett says she was promoting "my right to defend myself".

One of the primary responses from gun rights activists since the Parkland high school shooting in February is that the best way to prevent gun violence in educational settings is to do away with "gun-free zones" and allow more law-abiding citizens to carry firearms, both concealed and out in the open.

Pro-gun rights protester

Bennett said she chose the AR-10, a higher-powered version of the AR-15 rifle that has become controversial due to its use in recent mass shootings, including Parkland and the Newtown elementary school, because it matched her white dress and heels.