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July 27, 2015

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Why state should allow guns on campus

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Assemblywoman Michele Fiore

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Every college student should be allowed to defend themselves on our college campuses, especially our daughters, sisters and mothers, and Assembly Bill 143 will allow trained, law-abiding concealed weapon permit holders to carry their firearms on campus. We have to be responsible for our own safety, and that means removing the target painted on “gun-free zones.”

I’m the mother of two girls who attend College of Southern Nevada, and every time I hear about another college rape, assault or robbery, I feel more firmly that no one should be required to take their safety for granted. Sadly, because we restrict concealed weapon permit holders from carrying their firearms on campus, the lives of several young women who attended UNR were forever changed. The story starts with Amanda Collins, who was raped less than 100 feet from the UNR police station.

Amanda, a 22-year-old, law-abiding adult, had a concealed weapon permit, but per state law, she did not have her gun on campus that night. Amanda did everything she could to be safe. She walked with friends to the parking garage, checked around her car and knew her surroundings, but her assailant attacked her from behind. She was held at gunpoint, forced to the ground and violently raped between two cars. In those few minutes that must have felt like hours, Amanda feared for her life, and even being in such close proximity to the police, an officer never came past.

In the weeks that followed, Amanda’s attacker kidnapped and raped a second woman before he kidnapped, raped and murdered Brianna Denison. When Amanda returned to the scene of the crime to help the police build a case against her attacker, James Biela, she commented about the newly installed panic boxes; they weren’t near where she was raped and were too high for her to reach from the ground.

One in four women in America’s college system have been sexually assaulted by time they graduate from college, and it doesn’t end there; physical assaults and other violent crimes happen on our colleges every day. We need to be realistic that all self-defense tactics have limitations; we will never be able to prevent every crime, and we cannot expect our law enforcement to have super-human powers to respond in seconds instead of minutes. Panic buttons may be out of reach, assailants will likely be larger than their victims, and we can’t station an officer at every corner or between every car.

For some victims, carrying a legally concealed firearm may mean the difference between life and death. We should have the right to take responsibility for our own safety, and for that reason I have proposed AB143 because our loved ones should be allowed to protect themselves with their firearms on college campuses, something that Amanda couldn’t do.

I have received a lot of feedback about allowing concealed weapons on campus, and I want to set a few things straight. First, Nevada is an open carry state, meaning anyone can walk down the street with a gun in plain sight; however, you need a permit to conceal your weapon, and there are certain “gun-free zones” where you cannot carry a firearm at all.

We are not talking about every student carrying a gun. Less than 1 percent of Nevadans have a permit to carry a concealed weapon, so even if every student who has a permit was carrying, there will likely be only one student carrying in the largest classrooms.

These students aren’t vigilantes; they are law-abiding adults who want to guarantee their own safety. They are trained and tested, and their training emphasizes the seriousness and responsibility of carrying and using a concealed firearm.

I introduced AB143 because this is something we can do now to improve personal safety on our campuses, and I would never forgive myself for not doing everything in my power to allow the men and women attending college to take control of their own safety. Not on my watch.

I am optimistic that we will give our college students back their right to protect themselves on campus.

By prohibiting concealed weapons, we are taking our loved ones’ safety for granted, and I believe we owe it to Amanda, Brianna and the countless other women and men who have become victims because their right to carry a concealed firearm was taken away. We need to pass AB 143. Our loved ones’ lives may depend on it.

Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, represents District 4.

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