In graduation photos that Viceland called “fun and flirty,” Bennett—a young white woman in a white sundress and heels—presented herself as a poster child for the gun lobby. She went on to appear on Fox and Friends and got respectful coverage in the Washington Post and other mainstream outlets. Her gun read as a political statement or provocation.
As it happened, I was spending a lot of time with young people with guns that spring. But they were nobody’s poster children. They were Bennett’s age or younger, but they were black and male, and in their hands, guns read as violent and threatening. If they flashed one on social media, the cops showed up at their door and a criminal prosecution followed. My new book Charged tells their stories, and so does a podcast with the same name that Slate is launching Wednesday.