Judge Blocks University's Attempt to Infringe on 'Gun Girl's' First Amendment Rights


On Tuesday, a federal judge stopped Kent State University from charging a gun-rights student group around $1,700 for bringing a controversial alumna to speak on campus, the Akron Beacon Journal reports.

Kaitlin Bennett drew recognition when she took graduation photos with an AR-10 rifle.

Bennett, who advocates for campus-carry, was making the point that a few days before when she was a student what she was doing would have been illegal, but since graduating, it was legal.

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Bennett, known as the Kent State Gun Girl also held an open-carry walk in September that was mobbed with hundreds of protesters who clashed with police and led to four arrests.

Her upcoming event is called “Let’s Talk Gun Rights,” and is hosted by student group Liberty Hangout. It is planned to be held in university student center.

KSU claimed that it has a policy which requires security fees for student-organized campus events. However, the student group argued that if they had to pay the $1,700 security fee the school required, they wouldn’t be able to host the talk.

“Why, you might ask, should a student group, which isn’t financially able, be required to foot the bill for security every time Antifa protesters threaten to disrupt conservative events?” the group asked on their website.

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The group filed a lawsuit last week which says that the imposition of the security fee violates the students’ rights to free speech and assembly.

“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,” the suit says, claiming that the school’s policy is “unconstitutionally vague.”

Judge John Adams said he was  “gravely concerned” that the school’s policy might infringe on Bennett and students’ First Amendment rights by using Bennett’s history on campus to affect whether she is allowed to speak.

“There should have been more communication,” Adams said. “We can’t allow protesters to shift the (financial) burden to the speaker and her organization.”

Adams said that the university didn’t seem to be making enough effort to ensure that Bennett could speak her opinions on campus without being shouted down, Advance Ohio reports.

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Bennett and Liberty Hangout should not be held responsible for threat of violence or protesters, Adams claimed.

He concluded that the policy as written was too broad and granted a “temporary restraining order” on the fees.

While a full hearing will take place December 13th, Kent state will not charge the organization for fees for the November 19th event.

A spokesman for the school told the Akron Beacon in an email that Kent State will withhold sending an invoice until the hearing.

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Karista Baldwin studied constitutional law, politics and criminal justice.
Karista Baldwin has studied constitutional law, politics and criminal justice. Before college, she was a lifelong homeschooler in the "Catholic eclectic" style.
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