Nikki Goeser had a life most people only dream about. She was married to a great guy named Ben, and they were deeply and genuinely in love. Attractive, intelligent, and determined, Nikki graduated from university with a degree in psychology, she worked at a local college by day, and, at night, Nikki and Ben ran a professional Karaoke company that provided entertainment for several of Nashville’s clubs and bars. Then, in one terrible moment on April 2, 2009, her life was changed forever.
Nikki first began to legally carry a gun after the kidnapping and murder of two University of Tennessee students in 2007, but, on that rainy April night two years later, she was forced to lock her gun in the glove compartment of her car due to the Tennessee law that forbade citizens with a carry permit from bringing their weapon into a restaurant or bar. Nikki was forced to watch in horror as a man who had been stalking her pumped six bullets from a .45 caliber pistol into Ben Goeser, ending his life and shattering Nikki’s existence.
Since that terrible day, Nikki has worked tirelessly to eliminate the dangerous no carry zones that protect no one and make it easier for criminals to victimize law abiding citizens. After a prolonged political battle, she was finally successful is getting the law changed in Tennessee, but the victory came with potentially fatal flaw. Restaurant and bar owners have the option of posting a sign making their premises a no carry zone; a move Nikki considers an open, public announcement to criminals that they have free reign to rob and pillage an establishment full of unarmed citizens.
As she did her best to rebuild her life, Nikki found the motivation she needed to face each new day by writing a brave and unforgettable book about her marriage, the murder of her husband and her struggle to honor his memory by campaigning against Tennessee’s ill-conceived gun laws. ‘Denied A Chance” is the heart breaking and inspiring true story of Nikki Goeser’s tragic loss and her remarkable triumph over powerful political figures who seem determined to shred the Constitution and deny us all our god given rights to defend our loved one’s from harm.
We would like to welcome Nikki Goeser to The Inquisitr and we will begin the interview with questions from my esteemed colleague, Melissa Stusinski.
Melissa Stusinski: First of all, thank you for the time you are taking to speak with us. I want to say how sorry I am for your loss. I also want to tell you that I admire the courage you have to get up every day and fight for something you believe in. I know it isn’t easy to continue on when you have lost someone, and I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be for you, having witnessed your husband’s awful murder.
While Wolff Bachner will be asking you several questions about the political and social aspects of gun control and gun rights, I’d like to ask you more personal questions about your life and the events since Ben’s death.
I understand Ben’s killer, Hank Wise, received a sentence of 23 years in prison without the possibility of parole. I can’t imagine that feels like a fair trade off for Ben’s absence from your life. What went through your mind when the sentence was announced?
Nikki Goeser: I thought “I can’t believe our criminal justice system is going to allow this monster to walk free one day.” Being a murderer is bad enough but the psychologists that testified for the defense and prosecution both said they believe Ben’s murderer is paranoid/delusional. So about 19 years from now, society is going to have a mentally ill murderer on it’s hands. I will also be forced to worry for myself at that point. If I am able to possibly have a family at that point, I will have to constantly worry for them. It puts me in a horrible position when I have already been through hell. I certainly do not want to learn that this man was released and murdered some other innocent person.
Melissa Stusinski: If it isn’t too painful for you to discuss, and I understand if it is, can you describe the emotions you felt during the trial, seeing Wise sitting there in the court room, day after day?
Nikki Goeser: I felt sick to my stomach and extreme rage. Even for a good person who was raised to have a moral compass and follow laws, you have thoughts of extreme violence toward the perpetrator. There is a part of you that wants to jump up and out run the officers in the courtroom so you can get close enough to the murderer to shove your keys in his eye sockets and pound his face in the floor a few good times. Ultimately reason wins and you sit there composed, realizing that you must rise above and let the justice system do it’s job.
Melissa Stusinski: After Hank Wise’s relatively lenient sentence, do you plan to advocate for changes in the legal system to require stiffer penalties for criminals who use guns to commit violent crimes and murders or will you be focusing exclusively on Second Amendment rights?
Nikki Goeser: I don’t believe there needs to be stiffer penalties for those that use a gun in a wrongful manner. That would be a move that focuses on the object “a gun” instead of the real problem “the murderer.” A gun is simply the object Ben’s murderer chose to use that night. He also had a baseball bat and a knife in his truck that was found. Those objects could have been used just as well to kill. I have chosen to educate the public on their right to keep and bear arms for self defense so that they may have the ability to stop someone as depraved as Ben’s murderer. If a legislator reads my book, they would see where our courts are too lenient on violent offenders and hopefully those legislators will try and fix the problem.
Melissa Stusinski: I’m sure you have come across several people who have been rude to you because of your stance on gun rights and concealed carry. How do you handle the negative responses from people who don’t understand your desire to change the concealed carry laws?
Nikki Goeser: Yes, there are people who can be very rude and down right mean. Those people’s words are nowhere near as painful as watching my husband blown away right in front of me. I have dealt with a great deal and they can’t hurt me anymore than I have already been. I just stay focused on law abiding citizens being able to defend themselves and educating the public.
Melissa Stusinski: What are some of your plans for the future beyond advocating for changes to the Tennessee gun laws?
Nikki Goeser: I testified before the Ohio Legislature in favor of Restaurant Carry, which passed in that state. I provided written testimony to the North Carolina Legislature in favor of their own Restaurant Carry legislation. I have spoken locally and nationally on the importance of our 2nd amendment and hope to continue doing that. I hope to be able to have someone special in my life again as I know my late husband would want that for me. I also hope to perhaps go to law school if I can do that without going into debt. It could be awhile before that is possible for me.
Melissa Stusinski: Do you have any political aspirations, such as running for office?
Nikki Goeser: No. Not at this time.
Wolff Bachner: Nikki, before we continue with my questions, please accept my heartfelt condolences for the loss of your husband and my sincere admiration for your dedication to changing the laws of Tennessee and your tireless work in support of the Second Amendment.
Nikki, the state of Tennessee finally listened to the will of the voters and changed the laws concerning no carry zones at bars and restaurants. You were quite critical of the opt-out clause that allows business owners to post a sign banning guns from their premises. You stated the option was an advertisement to criminals that the customers were unarmed and easy targets for robbery and violent crimes.
What advice do you have for business owners who are considering opting out of the new law and banning guns from their place of business?
Nikki Goeser: I actually respect the private property owner and their decision what is or is not allowed on their property. However, I do not believe that “no guns allowed” signs are smart. I try to educate business owners on how dangerous this is as those with evil intent will simply ignore their sign and everyone in their business will be sitting ducks. We have seen this time and time again on the news where criminals and psychopaths go to these places to kill many people where they are met with no resistance. It baffles me how these business owners do not understand this.
Wolff Bachner: What are the benefits and risks of allowing licensed concealed carry in bars and restaurants?
Nikki Goeser: Let’s face it, there are risks with just about everything in our daily lives. When we drive down the street, there is only a yellow line separating us from that huge truck headed our way that could kill us in a second if it crossed over the line. We do things to try and minimize the damage such as airbags and seat belts. Gun free zones were put in place by politicians because they thought it would minimize the harm that could be done. Unfortunately, it has actually done the opposite. When law abiding people do not have the tools needed to properly defend themselves, they easily become victims. I believe the way you minimize the damage is allowing good people to have the ability to stop evil right away. That saying” when seconds count, the police are only minutes away” is very true. Perpetrators are only stopped once a gun arrives on the scene in the hands of a good person. As far as risks of allowing permit holders to carry in restaurants that serve alcohol, most states allow this and none of them have repealed the law. These states have not seen a problem with permit holders.
Wolff Bachner: Isn’t there a chance that someone carrying a legal concealed weapon may consume too much alcohol and do something highly irresponsible or potentially dangerous? Are there laws in place to prevent this possible problem?
Nikki Goeser: Most states make it clear that if you are permitted to carry, you cannot consume alcohol while carrying. These states have not had a problem with permit holders. There are also states like Arkansas that actually let the permit holder have a drink or two (as long as they are under the .08 BAC limit) and this state has not had a problem with permit holders. We must look at the history of these states since these laws were put in place. It does not appear to be an issue, otherwise we would see repeal after repeal of these laws.
Wolff Bachner: What about the possibility of serious injury or death to an innocent bystander if a gunfight breaks out between a criminal and a legally armed citizen in a restaurant or bar?
Nikki Goeser: Unlike criminals, law abiding permit holders go through training and that training focuses on justifiable use of force and not harming innocent people in the process. I would be much more concerned with the criminal shooting indiscriminately rather than a law abiding person who realizes if they harm an innocent bystander, they could go to jail and lose everything in a civil lawsuit. Bad guys could care less about any of those penalties. Permit holders are trained and law abiding and know they must be very careful, and perhaps almost too careful because they fear those penalties. You don’t take a shot unless it is a clear shot. I don’t think any of us could live with ourselves if we harmed an innocent person.
Wolff Bachner: What would you like to say to the Tennessee legislators who voted against the bill to change the concealed carry law and to the governor who did everything in his power to block the bill from becoming law?
Nikki Goeser: Life is measured by our moments of happiness. My greatest happiness was taken from me by a sick/ evil individual who didn’t follow your naively placed law. The penalties for breaking that law mean nothing to someone hell bent on murder. Murder is illegal to begin with and substantial jail time is a no brainer penalty that did not deter him. Do you really think a gun free zone will stop someone this depraved? Really? I however did follow your law because the penalties for carrying in a gun free zone could mean jail time and losing my handgun carry permit. These were real penalties for someone like myself. I’d say “Walk a mile in my shoes” but I really don’t want them to experience this kind of pain. They helped make Ben’s murder very easy by making us helpless.
Wolff Bachner: Are they simply misguided or are they actively working to restrict the Second Amendment rights of private citizens?
Nikki Goeser: I certainly hope they are just misguided. I really don’t know for sure. I think most sincerely believe that a gun free zone is a safe place. I just hope they are never sitting in one of these gun free zones when evil pays a visit. They would see first hand what helpless feels like.
Wolff Bachner: How should private citizens respond to politicians or law enforcement officials who believe that only the police and the military should be allowed to own or carry weapons and citizens should be required by law to wait for police assistance instead of defending themselves?
Nikki Goeser: I would promptly inform them that they have just violated their oath. They took an oath to support our constitution and that includes our right to keep and bear arms.
Wolff Bachner: How can voters restore some sanity and common sense to their local self-defense laws?
Nikki Goeser: You must get involved in local and state politics as a concerned citizen. Start going to political meetings and learning about legislation. Start communicating with Legislators. Get involved in campaigns and help put people in office that share your concerns and values. Talk with friends and family and get them involved as well.
Wolff Bachner: Why have so many states, including Tennessee, passed draconian laws that ban all privately owned, licensed firearms on college campuses? How does this protect students?
Nikki Goeser: It goes back to the false belief that gun free zones make us safe. If it really makes us safe then why did Virginia Tech happen? Why was my friend Amanda Collins brutally raped on her college campus in Nevada? Why are so many college students the victim of horrible crimes while on campus all across the nation? The answer is simple. If the Legislators would listen and actually do the research themselves…. It’s the law abiding that follow their laws and the criminals that don’t. Those college’s in the U.S that allow permit holders to carry on campus have not seen these horrific crimes because those adult students have the ability to defend themselves and the bad guys know it. It is a deterrent. A powerful deterrent.
Wolff Bachner: Why have some schools have even banned armed campus police?
Nikki Goeser: Because they are fools? It does not make sense to take away that first line of defense should evil decide to pay a visit. Foolish.
Wolff Bachner: Are you making any progress in changing the Tennessee laws banning licensed guns on college campuses?
Nikki Goeser: I speak as an advocate to the public in hopes that they will communicate the need for these changes to their Legislators.