At Townhall: My Take On the Horrific UNLV Shooting

Dec 8, 2023 | op-ed

Amanda Collins Johnson, a fellow at the Crime Prevention Research Center, has her first op-ed piece at Townhall. Amanda’s new book is titled: Beyond Survival: Reclaiming My Life After I Survived Rape.”

As I heard the news about a mass shooting at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV), I immediately recalled an event sixteen years ago during my Junior year at the University of Nevada Reno. I was raped in the parking garage only feet away from the campus police officer. As this stranger raped me, I could see the police cruisers parked for the night, and I knew no one was coming for me. The man who raped me at gunpoint did so in a gun-free zone. 

My rapist, just like Wednesday’s mass shooter at the University of Nevada, took advantage of the gun-free zone, ensuring that his victims would be defenseless. How does rendering me, a law-abiding citizen, defenseless protect anyone against a violent crime? 

Eventually, the man who raped me was caught, but not before, also raping two other women and murdering one of them.

At the time of my attack, I had obtained my CCW permit for the personal choice of not wanting to be a defenseless target. The University of Nevada still bans permit holders from carrying firearms on campus. As a law-abiding citizen, I left my firearm at home; consequently, the very law meant to ensure my safety only guaranteed the criminal an unmatched victim. 

The question plaguing me is: what would have been different if I’d been carrying my weapon that night? I know. Had I been carrying my firearm that night, I would have been able to stop my attack as it was in progress. Consequently, the rapist would have never raped two other women. Any survivor of rape can understand that the young woman I was walking into the parking garage that night was not the same woman who left. My life has never been the same after my attack. Legalized concealed campus carry would have saved my family, who happens to be the collateral damage in my story, and me a great deal of untold torment.  

My case is a perfect example: despite law enforcement’s best efforts to ensure our safety, they cannot be everywhere simultaneously. All I wanted was a chance to defend myself effectively. The choice to participate in one’s defense should be left to the individual. The government should not make that choice. As a law-abiding citizen, I should not have to hand over my safety to a third party. The legislators across this country continue to effectively legislate women like me into being victims by stripping away our Second Amendment rights. Lawmakers opposed to campus carry are more intimidated by law-abiding citizens like me sitting in class with their permitted weapons than of the rapist waiting for me in the parking garage. Most people are unaware that 1 in 4 women will be raped while attending college, and 1/3 of them occur on their college campus.

Eleven states permit campus carry, and not one of those states has seen a rise in crimes committed with firearms. There has been a decrease in crimes committed on campus property. Still, law-abiding citizens are barred from exercising this fundamental freedom on our publicly funded university campuses, leaving them defenseless against gun-wielding criminals who disregard the laws. The laws need to change so that those with a concealed carry permit can lawfully bring firearms onto college campuses, just as they do anywhere else in their daily lives. In my experience, personal safety threats don’t magically disappear in declared “safe zones,” especially on campuses. 

Today, as news breaks about an active shooter at UNLV, my heart sinks, and I’m enraged at the same time. Evil persists and leaving law-abiding citizens still prevails in my home state. For over a decade, state legislatures in Nevada have had the opportunity to change this travesty of safety. Yet my pleas, along with many others, fell on deaf ears. Lawmakers choose to remain willfully ignorant of the fact there is nothing in place to keep armed assailants from on our campuses today, just like 16 years ago when I met mine while I was defenseless. 

Whether I had my weapon, I had more to lose than he did that night. If I’d had my weapon, I would have faced expulsion from school, losing my permit, and possibly jail time. My attacker was not a student, nor did he have a CCW permit; furthermore, during his sentencing, he received a one-year enhancement charge for having a gun. I lost my dignity that night, and my life changed forever.

Today, students across the UNLV campus will forever be changed. Nevada didn’t allow them to defend themselves against their attack with equal force.

Amanda Collins Johnson is a fellow with the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author of the book “Beyond Survival: Reclaiming My Life After I Survived Rape.”

Amanda Collins Johnson, “My Take On the Horrific UNLV Shooting,” Townhall, December 8, 2023.

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