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A Fighting Chance



by David Burnett

Unable to carry a firearm for protection while on campus, concealed-carry permit holder Amanda Collins was brutally raped. Today, her fight to save other women from a similar fate is helping her along the road to healing.

Amanda Collins never had a chance.

If anyone could have physically resisted a six-foot-tall attacker with martial arts training, it would have been her. After all, she is a second-degree black belt in Tae kwon do.

“It took me a few years to realize that not everybody’s parents made them get their second-degree black belt to get their driver’s license,” Collins laughed during an exclusive interview with America’s 1st Freedom.

Collins, a concealed-carry permit holder, studied education and English at the University of Nevada, Reno. But there are two things that are against the law on Nevada college campuses—rape, and carrying a gun for protection against rapists. Like the vast majority of “enlightened” public universities nationwide, UNR prohibits lawfully armed citizens from protecting themselves on campus.

Just like thousands of other students, Collins was deprived of the right to defend herself.

On Oct. 22, 2007, Collins was on campus to take a late-night midterm. She parked in the same garage where campus police park their cruisers—less than 100 yards from the police station—to avoid having to cross campus after dark.
Leaving class after 10 p.m., the attractive 5-foot-2 junior dutifully followed the “safety in numbers” rule by walking with several classmates to the garage until they parted ways to their different levels.

Displaying the awareness inherent in a concealed-carry permit holder with a black belt in martial arts, Collins scanned the area around her car as she approached. She didn’t see the man hunched down between two vehicles, patiently waiting. In an instant, the man pulled Collins down, put a gun to her temple, clicked off the safety and ordered her not to say anything.

Amanda Collins never had a chance.

In January 2008, Reno came alive with volunteers desperate to find a young woman who disappeared not far from the University of Nevada, Reno campus. Brianna Denison, 19, was staying with a friend during winter break and went missing in the middle of the night.

The search came to an end when Denison’s body was found four weeks later. Authorities determined she’d been kidnapped, raped and brutally strangled. Her naked body was left to freeze, crudely hidden beneath a discarded Christmas tree.

Brianna Denison never had a chance.

Students on campus became increasingly fearful as time went by and no arrests were made. Authorities began to question if the attack was related to previous incidents. College officials issued the same feckless guidelines, such as “be aware of your surroundings,” “don’t walk across campus after dark” and “travel in groups.” They also attentively supplied “rape whistles” to female students. (Local gun shops reported a surge in more practical self-defense measures.)

After Denison’s murder, authorities spoke with Collins about similarities in the two cases. Collins gave a physical description to a police sketch artist, and within months police tracked down and arrested James Biela, a construction worker who at one point worked on campus near where both attacks occurred.

Collins spent the day before her graduation testifying at trial. During the sentencing phase of the trial, she read a statement saying she forgave Biela for his actions but believed he should face immeasurable consequences, just as he condemned her to endure.

On June 2, 2010, Biela was sentenced to death for the murder of Denison. He currently sits on Nevada’s death row while his case is appealed.

Months later, Collins approached the NRA about decriminalizing concealed carry at Nevada’s public universities. A bill doing so passed the state senate, but was ultimately defeated by Assembly Judiciary Chairman William Horne, who refused to bring the bill up for a vote. Arguing against the bill were faculty members and police officers—most of whom presumably had never been raped or strangled on campus—who raised concerns about their own safety if the same people who carried off campus exercised that right while on campus.

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