DENVER– Despite hearing life-and-death stories of rape victims who begged legislators not to take away their right to carry concealed weapons on college campuses, a Democrat controlled Senate panel did just that late Monday night.
Those who carry concealed weapons “increase the severity of a crime, increase the likelihood of death,” declared state Sen. Evie Hudak (D-Westminster).
“For women especially, it’s more likely to be used against them and taken away from them,” asserted Hudak. “They are more easily overpowered… and I don’t want people to have a false sense of safety and security.”
The Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee listened to 90 minutes of testimony by proponents, largely students and professors, who said they feel intimidated and uncomfortable by people who have concealed carry weapon permits.
Listening to the 90-minute testimony of rape victims and their family members was “heartbreaking,” said state Sen. Ted Harvey (R-Highlands Ranch).
Members appeared stunned by the graphic details of these violent attacks – but also the women’s plea to kill this bill to ensure their right to protect themselves with weapons.
Amanda Collins vividly recalled a vicious sexual assault in a parking garage in 2007 when she was a college student at the University of Nevada at Reno– a “gun free zone” in accordance with a law passed by that state’s legislature.
Collins had a concealed carry permit, but had left her handgun at home to obey the “gun free zone” law the day that she was raped.
“If the purpose of declaring a gun free zone is to ensure the safety of those on university properties in Colorado, then it will not serve that objective,” declared Collins.
“The question in my life is, and will remain to be, what would have been different if I’d been able to carry my firearm,” Collins told the committee. “At some point, I would have been able to stop my attack.”
That, she said, would have prevented the perpetrator James Biella of later raping two other women, and killing the third victim, 19-year-old Brianna Dennison.
“How does rendering me defenseless protect you against violent crime?” asked Collins.
Her question was met with silence by Democrat committee members state Sens. Angela Giron of Pueblo, Matt Jones of Louisville and Hudak, and Sen. Rollie Heath, who with state Rep. Claire Levy, both of Boulder, sponsored the bill.
“What we are trying to do is to protect students and teachers from feeling uncomfortable by you carrying a gun to protect yourself,”Harveysaid of the Democrat-controlled committee’s intent.
“I apologize,” said Harvey who explained that the Democrats would weight the rights of those who oppose concealed carry weapons on campus over Collins right to self defense.
“Thank you for sharing your story – very, very unsettling,” said Hudak, who then defended the bill.
“I just want to say that actually statistics are not on your side,” declared Hudak.
“For every one woman who used a handgun in self defense, 83 were murdered,” she said, citing Colorado Coalition Against Gun Violence data.
“You said that you were a martial arts student,” said Hudak. “And yet because this individual was so large he was able to overcome you even with your skills.”
“And chances are that if you had had a gun then he would have been able to get that from you and possibly use it against you,” asserted Hudak.
“Respectfully Senator you were not there,” responded Collins. “I was there.”
“I know without a doubt in my mind that at some point I would have been able to stop my attack by using my firearm,” declared Collins. “He already had a weapon – he didn’t need mine.”
The bill, which passed the state House, drew national media attention last month when Democrat state Rep. Joe Salazar of Thornton made similarly controversial rape-related comments.
“That’s why we have call boxes, that’s why we have safe zones, that’s why we have whistles, because you just don’t know who you’re going to be shooting at,” said Salazar at the time. “And you don’t know if you feel like you’re going to be raped or if you feel like someone’s been following you around or if you feel like you’re in trouble,” asserted Salazar.
But Collins and other rape survivors debunked the idea that a safety zone, a call box or whistle could protect them from a rapist.
“Anyone in danger would first have to locate a (call box) that works, push a button, wait for a response, explain what’s going on – all while fighting off her attacker – and then wait for help to arrive,” said Collins.
“The average response time is 11 minutes – my entire attack took 8 (minutes),” said Collins, who added that campus security and law enforcement can’t always protect a person.
“How safely could I have used a whistle with a pistol pointed at my temple?” asked Collins.
Summit County Sheriff John Minor, one of 19 county sheriffs who opposed the bill, agreed with Collins – law enforcement can’t be everywhere and the response time is too long.
Citing a New York University study, Minor said that one in five young women have been raped on college campuses. In 85 percent of the cases, he said about 85 percent are acquaintances or known to the victim.
“Rape is rape. It’s an act of violence,” declared Minor.
The sheriff said he has two teenage daughters and wants to protect their right to protection by having concealed carry weapons when they are age 21 and attending college.
If HB 1266 passes the Senate and becomes law, Minor wondered what he would tell his daughters. “You have to break the laws to have an opportunity to defend yourself?”
“I wish we could stop people from raping. I wish we could stop people from beating their wives,” said Hudak. “We have to make a decision that we think is in the best interest of the majority of people and promotes the most safety.”
Heath said he was “shaking literally and physically sitting next to all of these incredible young women” as they testified about rape.
“If I felt it was appropriate, I would have reached out and hugged them,” said Heath. “Obviously that was not appropriate… I think we’re better off not having guns on campus.”
The bill passed 3-2 on a party line split, and will likely pass the Senate this week.
“This vote is extremely disturbing,” said Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman of Colorado Springs. “The women who came here and shared their personal stories of rape and assult have just been victimized again by their own government.”
Video of Hudak’s comments are embedded below.