Amanda Collins was walking to her car after finishing a class on the University of Nevada, Reno, campus when an eight-minute ordeal changed her life.
As she approached her car the night of Oct. 22, 2007, James Biela lunged out from a hiding spot behind another vehicle and threw Collins to the ground before raping her at gunpoint.
Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the campus police cars. She was defenseless.
Five years after the attack, she is urging support for Assembly Bill 143, which would allow concealed-weapons permit holders, like Collins was, to bring their firearms on Nevada’s higher education campuses for personal protection.
“In all honesty, I wished I was on my way to meet Jesus, because I didn’t know how I could live after experiencing that,” Collins said as some in the room wiped away tears.
Her testimony was part of a five-hour Assembly Judiciary Committee meeting on Nevada gun policy. The committee also heard a bill that would allow permit holders to renew their permits at any time before they expire, and a bill that proposes excise taxes on gun sales and would require universal background checks.
Biela went on to rape at least one other woman before raping and murdering Brianna Denison in early 2008. He is on death row.
“There is currently nothing keeping the next James Biela off our campuses,” she said.
The Associated Press’ policy is to not name victims of rape, but Collins testified in an open hearing and agreed to be interviewed by the AP following the meeting.
Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, presented the campus-carry bill, which mirrors a 2011 effort that died in the Assembly after passing the Senate.
In anticipation of the opposition, Fiore proposed amendments that would not allow guns in classes that conclude before sunset and would allow the Board of Regents to make regulations pertaining to gun storage in on-campus housing.
Caden Fabbi, a member of student government at the University of Nevada, Reno, said students oppose campus carry and feel the “thought of guns in classrooms would be distracting” to them.
Majority Leader William Horne, D-Las Vegas, later presented AB234, which would create an excise tax of $25 for gun sales and 2 cents per round for ammunition sales. It also would make private gun sellers civilly liable for damages caused by guns they sell if they do not perform background checks on buyers.
Proceeds of the tax would go to mental health services and victims of crime.
“It establishes policies that will hold gun owners responsible for allowing their guns to end up in wrong hands,” Horne said.
Current law bans the sale of metal-piercing bullets in Nevada, but not the possession; this measure also would close that loophole.
A study presented to the committee said 40 percent of guns in Nevada are bought from private dealers, so targeting them for background checks is a matter of public safety, Horne said.
“I don’t think you need a statistics table to assume most criminals are buying their guns from private sellers,” he said. He added that 86 percent of Nevadans favor background checks for all gun owners.
Because the bill covers a couple of topics, opponents argued it should be divided into multiple pieces of legislation. Others contended that it’s not right to make law-abiding citizens pay for those who break laws.
Republicans on the committee questioned specifically addressing guns when cars or other devices can kill as well, but Horne said because guns are designed to kill, there is a “heightened responsibility.” The bill requires a two-thirds vote in both houses because of the tax component.
No action was taken on either bill.