Tennessee college student defends her gun-toting 'graduation' photo

“I know the Tennessee state gun codes,” Brenna Spencer said.

April 9, 2018, 2:29 PM
Brenna Spencer is pictured in this undated photo obtained by ABC News.
Brenna Spencer is pictured in this undated photo obtained by ABC News.
Obtained by ABC News

Amid a youth-driven gun control debate that has swarmed social media, a college senior in Tennessee is defending the provocative photo she posted of her packing a handgun with the caption, “I don’t take normal graduation photos …”

In the photo, posted Saturday, Brenna Spencer, 22, holds up the bottom of her “Trump for Women” T-shirt to reveal a handgun wedged into the waistband of her jeans outside a Tennessee museum.

The senior at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, wanted the photo to “show who I am as a person,” she told ABC News.

Spencer’s tweet prompted positive and negative responses from pro-gun users, some of whom took issue with her “brandishing a firearm for a photo shoot or showing it off to try and look cool.”

The public response has surprised her, Spencer said. “I did think that it would get a little attention but not to this degree,” she said. “It was really, really surprising to see the amount of hate that I got.”

Spencer said she also received some respectful messages directly from people who disagreed with her politically, but most users took to the public thread to respond to her photo.

“I try to stay off the comments, to be honest,” she said. “I just know that I got a lot of hate.”

Others applauded her knowledge of Second Amendment rights.

Spencer received several responses alleging that she broke the law by having her weapon unconcealed at the museum, with one Twitter user including a screenshot of an article from ArtNews.com, which lists the Hunter Museum among galleries that prohibit handguns inside.

Spencer’s friend took the photo outside the Hunter Museum of American Art in Chattanooga but she did not enter the facility with her handgun, and therefore did not go through any kind of museum security, she told ABC.

“I know the Tennessee state gun codes,” Spencer, who is set to graduate in May with a major in communications and a minor in political science, said.

The Chattanooga Police Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Spencer, who also works as a field representative for the conservative nonprofit Turning Point, said she owns several handguns in addition to the one featured, which she has owned for about six months.

“I carry everywhere that I’m allowed to carry,” she said, which excludes her college campus.