CARSON CITY — A woman sexually assaulted in a campus parking garage by a convicted killer and rapist told state lawmakers Friday that she could have defended herself if she were allowed to carry a concealed weapon at the University of Nevada, Reno.
“I would have at some point during my rape been able to stop James Biela,” Amanda Collins told the Senate Committee on Government Affairs during emotional testimony.
Collins testified in favor of a bill sponsored by Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas. The bill would remove a requirement that people who hold a concealed weapons permit obtain permission from a college or university president to carry a gun on campus.
The Associated Press does not generally name victims of sexual assault but is in this case because the woman volunteered to testify and chose to identify herself to the committee before recounting details of the attack.
Biela, a former Marine and pipefitter, was convicted last year of killing Brianna Denison. The 19-year-old college student was visiting her hometown over Christmas break when she vanished from a couch she was sleeping on at a friend’s house in January 2008. Her body was found three weeks later in a frozen, empty field in Reno.
Biela was arrested 11 months later and later linked to two other rapes committed on the UNR campus in late 2007. He was convicted and sentenced to death for the Denison murder and sentenced to four life prison terms for raping Collins and another woman.
Collins said that four years after her rape, the university has still not found a suitable way to protect students. She said she was raped less than 300 feet from the campus police office and the call box now near the site of her attack would have been out of reach because she was pinned to the ground.
Assemblyman Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, who teaches at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, also testified in favor of the bill, telling senators that he would consider carrying a firearm if the bill passes.
“There are times when it is a very barren campus,” he said.
Debate focused on whether increased personal safety would put the larger campus community at risk.
Chuck Callaway with the Las Vegas Police Department said the bill is unnecessary because violent crime has dropped almost 13 percent over the past decade. Police also expressed fear that the bill would lead to a lot of guns on campus and make school shootings like the infamous attacks at Virginia Tech or Columbine High School even worse because officers would not be able to distinguish aggressors from so-called protectors.
Jim Richardson of the Nevada Faculty Alliance also spoke against the measure. “I am not an anti-gun nut person. I actually own guns. I do not take them to campus. I see no reason to do that.”
Sen. Michael Schneider, D-Las Vegas, shrugged off intimations that gun carriers would lead to safer campus environments, saying “that’s just baloney.” He asked for statistics to support claims that campuses are unsafe and that the proposed plan could improve the situation.
Lee, the bills’ sponsor, said the issue of guns on campus came down to a basic question.
“Why don’t you trust your permit holders on campus when you trust them everywhere else?” he asked opponents.
No action was taken by the committee.