DENVER — Tensions were running high both inside and outside the state Capitol during 12 hours of testimony on new gun control bills Monday.
But the tension between state Sen. Evie Hudak (D-Westminster) and gun control advocate Amanda Collins made the horn-blaring drivers circling Civic Center Park seem like angry third graders whining about recess getting cancelled.
Collins was attending the Capitol to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about her rape at the University of Nevada-Reno in 2007. While walking to her car after an evening class, Collins was grabbed from behind by an armed man and raped in a university parking garage less than 300 yards from a campus police office.
Collins had a concealed carry permit, but was not permitted to have her 9-mm Glock on campus, per Nevada law.
“I’m weighted with this question,” Collins told the Colorado committee Monday, “What would have been different if I had been carrying the weapon I was licensed to carry that night?”
After calling the details of the rape “unsettling,” Hudak moved to answer Collins’ question quickly. Citing statistics and bits of Collins’ own testimony, Hudak said she isn’t sure anything would have been different if Collins had a gun.
“You said that you were a martial arts student — I mean person — experienced in taekwondo,” Hudak said. “And yet because this individual was so large, was able to overcome you even with your skills, chances are that if you had had a gun, he would have been able to get that from you and possibly use it against you.”
Hudak continued to say that statistics produced by the Colorado Coalition Against Gun Violence show that for every one woman who used a handgun to kill someone in self-defense, 83 were murdered by their attackers.
“I just want to say that actually, the statistics are not on your side,” Hudak concluded. She later apologized for what she said.
Collins was equally eager to retort, having to be told initially to wait for Hudak to finish her remarks. When given her chance to speak, Collins criticized Hudak for putting more value on statistics than personal experience.
“Respectfully Senator, you weren’t there,” Collins said. “Had I been carrying concealed, he (my attacker) wouldn’t have known I had my weapon. And I was there. I know without a doubt in my mind at some point I would’ve been able to stop my attack by using my firearm.”
Hudak later apologized to Collins. The state Senator released this statement: “I didn’t mean to be insensitive towards Amanda Collins’ situation. I respect the courage it took for the witnesses to share their heartbreaking stories. Amanda was reflecting on her situation and asked the committee if having a gun would have made her safer. I realize now it was a rhetorical question.”
Hudak also said, “My timing was not the best for making the point. I’m glad I had the opportunity to offer Amanda a sincere apology in a private conversation.”
Like gun control advocates have turned to former Arizona Senator Gabby Giffords, whose husband Mark Kelly also testified before the Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, guns rights activists have found a fierce ally in the soft-spoken Collins.
James Biela, the man who raped Collins in 2007, went on to rape and murder 19-year-old Brianna Denison in 2008. Both Collins and the gun rights groups supporting her argue that had she been armed that night, Denison might still be alive.
Scratch that. Similarly to her testimony in Colorado Monday, Collins told Fox News she knows what the outcome would have been.
“I know, having been the first victim, that Brianna Dennison would still be alive had I been able to defend myself that night,” Collins said.
Collins testified to that end when speaking before a Nevada Senate Judiciary Committee in 2011, pleading for the passage of Senate Bill 231, which would have allowed students with the appropriate permits to carry concealed weapons on the state’s college campuses.
The bill passed with a 15-6 party-line vote in a Republican-controlled Nevada Senate, but it was killed by the state Assembly a week later. It is still illegal to carry a weapon on the property of the Nevada System of Higher Education.
After the debate between Hudak and Collins Monday, the Democrat-controlled Senate Committee passed all seven of this year’s new gun control bills — also thanks to a party-line vote.
This Friday, all of those seven bills will be presented for a final round of debates on the Senate floor, where Democrats own a 20-15 majority.