CARSON CITY – When the Amanda Collins testified before a Senate committee, she recounted an emotional story of her brutal assault at University of Nevada, Reno campus.
Collins said she was defenseless when serial rapist and convicted murderer James Biela attacked her in a UNR parking garage.
She was testifying in support of a bill from Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, that would allow people with concealed carry permits to bring their firearms onto Nevada’s college and university campuses.
Collins had a permit to carry a concealed firearm, but had left it at home knowing that it was illegal to carry her weapon onto campus.
“The unanswered question of my life is and will remain to be, ‘what would have changed if I was carrying my weapon that night?’” she said.
Earlier this summer it took a Nevada jury just six hours to convict Biela of the rape and murder of Brianna Denison. Biela was also found guilty of three other felony charges, including the rape of a Collins in October 2007 and the rape and kidnapping of another woman a few months later.
In her testimony this morning, Collins raised a question that guided the several hours of testimony that followed: “what if?”
Gun advocates, firearms safety businesses and students said people must pass rigorous requirements to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon; they know the law and would not misuse their firearms. If firearms are allowed on campus, people on campus would be more safe, they said.
“It’s important to know that law-abiding citizens are just that: law abiding,” Lee said.
Furthermore, the senator said, the current ban creates an “arbitrary line” between on-campus and off-campus that oftentimes is no more different than one side of the street from the other.
Assemblyman Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, teaches night classes at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He said that his students sometimes do not feel safe leaving his class.
“They are very cognizant of the fact that there are places around the campus that are not the safest,” he said.
Hammond said would feel safer if trained permit carriers were in his classes.
Hours of testimony from individuals provided the committee with a series of situations. If “bad guys” were to attempt violent acts on campuses, the ability to carry a firearm on campuses would allow people to protect themselves.
“To single out college students and staff and leave them more vulnerable than the rest of the population just seems unfair,” said Scott Durward, a firearms trainer for Blackbird Tactical Training in Reno.
Adam Garcia, police chief at UNR, said that campuses are safer than the surrounding community. But in regards to Collins, who was still in the room when Garcia testified, he said “we failed miserably.”
Garcia and other representatives from police departments throughout Nevada opposed the bill, saying it would make campuses less safe if guns were to be allowed. He said raucous sporting events involving alcohol and firearms could pose a security threat.
“These events could become killing fields,” Garcia said.
Frank Adams, representing the Nevada Sheriffs and Chiefs Association, said that the bill poses “grave concerns.” If guns were to be allowed on campuses, he asked the committee what procedures police would follow in terms of storing guns in dormitories and managing guns at sports events.
He also said that Nevada’s Board of Regents generally govern their own affairs. This bill would be unusual because it instructed the board to act a certain way.
“Many private businesses elect to restrict any weapons, concealed or not,” Adams said.
Jim Richardson of the Nevada Faculty Alliance said that the bill would mandate that universities allow people with permits to carry their guns on campus while not changing laws governing allowing firearms in the Legislature, airports and the other government buildings.
After three hours of testimony, Lee held the bill for further discussion.