Nichole “Nikki” Goesner first appeared on the Tennessee political stage during the 2009 debate over “guns in bars” legislation, invited by a state senator to tell the story of how her husband was killed in cold blood as she watched and how she has wished ever since that she had a pistol in her purse on that night.
“Had I not been disarmed, I could have had a chance to save Ben,” she writes as she retells the story in the recently published book “Denied a Chance: How Gun Control Helped a Stalker Murder My Husband.”
In her mind, Goesner writes, she constantly replayed scenarios in which she would have acted differently if the .38 she was licensed to carry had been with her. It was left in her car because state law at the time forbade carrying a gun into a restaurant where alcohol was served.
She was there to help her husband, as a second job in the evenings, run a karaoke operation. He was setting up the equipment when she spotted the man who had been stalking her, she writes, and asked the manager to evict him. The manager was talking with him when the man turned, unzipped his jacket, pulled a .45 from underneath his coat and shot her husband, who fell on the first blast and then was shot another five times.
“The one thing that kept me going was my Second Amendment advocacy work,” she writes. “It gave me a healthy outlet to try and educate others about protecting themselves and their families.”
The bill she advocated in Tennessee was enacted, over the veto of then-Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat. Republican Goesner, who acknowledges she was rather politically naive when her husband was murdered, expresses some initial surprise that the senator who invited her to the Senate floor as an advocate for the bill was a Democrat — Doug Jackson of Dickson, subsequently defeated by a Republican. And she expresses some anger with then-House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh for opposing the bill, though acknowledging that, after meeting him in person, he was “a nice man” in many ways.
“Our Second Amendment is not a partisan issue. It is a civil rights issue,” she writes.
The most interesting parts of her book may be those relating to the advocacy aftermath of the slaying and the subtle bias she encountered as a victim who holds a handgun carry permit.
Seems, for example, she was assigned a state trooper to watch over her when she attended a Bredesen-hosted Christmastime event for those who have lost a loved one to criminal violence. She left a taxpayer-funded victim counseling program after the counselor expressed unease over her gun-carrying tendencies. And even the prosecutor assigned to convict her husband’s killer — the man got 23 years with no parole on a second-degree murder conviction when Goesner thinks, not surprisingly, that a bullet in the head would have been more appropriate — expressed distaste over her gun-owner advocacy.
The book, written as a 142-page conversational narrative, is fundamentally another step in her advocacy that has already taken the “Second Amendment Sister” to testify to legislators in Kentucky, Arkansas, Ohio and elsewhere, and appear on TV in broadcast interviews aired worldwide.
The author recites many of the generic pro-gun arguments one hears in legislative debates, countering many of the generic gun control arguments one hears in debates.
There’s also a swipe at the “liberal media,” said to “glorify” killers by publicizing their names while paying scant attention to victims. She makes a point of not mentioning the name of her husband’s “scumbag” killer because he doesn’t deserve the recognition.
Goesner is today executive assistant to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Curtis Halford, R-Dyer. Which suggests, more or less, that the former political outsider has become part of the ruling Republican supermajority mainstream.
Insofar as gun rights go, there’s no doubt that Goesner’s views are the majority views in Legislatorland today, or much more so than before tragedy brought her into the picture. Even if that makes some counselors and prosecutors uneasy.