Nikki Goeser’s book detailing her ordeal – first as a witness to the murder of her husband in cold blood and then, as her role in the courtroom afterward – is a hard read. It carefully dissects the events leading up to that fateful evening in 2009 when she and her husband spent their last few moments together, in a place where Nikki could not legally carry a concealed gun, even though she had a permit. Then, Nikki takes the reader step-by-step into the criminal court system and its convoluted process. Later, she explains how and why she works to change gun laws that don’t protect people.
Britney Starr interviewed Nikki last year, after she won the NRA’s Sybil Ludington Women’s Freedom Award for her untiring efforts to change concealed carry laws in Tennessee and Ohio. I wanted to follow up with her, because I knew it was not easy for her to relive the grueling events that followed that night in a karaoke bar, and it is important that she gets an opportunity to explain where she’s been and where she’s going.
The WON: Why? Why write a book like this one, “Denied a Chance: How gun control helped a stalker murder my husband?”
Nikki: The book actually began as my personal diary. It was a way for me to deal with the grief, trauma and loss. I also knew that I would have to testify in a murder trial as a witness to my husband’s brutal murder and I needed to remember events exactly as they occurred. It was going to be several years before I would be on the witness stand and I feared my memory would fail me if I did not write down what happened up to, during and after Ben’s murder. I felt that perhaps others could learn from my experience. Perhaps my words and my life could help others realize the importance of their right to self defense and why our 2nd Amendment is so important.
The WON: You said you spent hours and hours after your husband’s death, writing and writing. Was it cathartic, or was it just reliving the nightmare? How did you balance it?
Nikki: It was definitely both. It helped to get all my emotions out and write as though I was speaking with someone. There were more than a few times when I cried and had to stop. Several times I stopped and did not write again for weeks or months. I had to try and get the facts down quickly and try to deal with the emotional part on my own before I could move on. I don’t think anyone walks away from trauma the same person they were before. It becomes a new kind of normal. You either have the capacity to deal with it or you don’t. Many people have not made it after trauma because they bottle it up inside. I did not want to be one of those people. Ben would want me to get past this and have a happy, healthy life. I just try and remember what a lighthearted, fun, kind person he was and what he would ultimately want for me after all of this. I still have difficult moments and the occasional nightmare, but they are rare. I have just learned to deal with those moments should they pop up.
The WON: As a result of Ben’s death, a lot of good has come about in concealed carry legislation changes. Can you list the ones that you impacted, please?
Nikki: I really feel like I only played a small role in Tennessee passing the restaurant carry bill. I came in at the tail end when the override vote was needed. The Senate sponsor of the bill told my story and invited me to be present during that successful vote.
I testified before the House and Senate in Ohio’s legislature, along with Dr. Suzanna Hupp, and that vote was successful as well. I gave written testimony to the North Carolina Legislature in favor of their own restaurant carry legislation. I have spoken both locally and nationally in favor of concealed carry on college campuses also. I can only hope that the public and legislators pay close attention to what victims like myself have to say about the dangers of gun-free zones.
The WON: You have suffered trauma as a result of witnessing this horrific crime against your beloved. How did you cope afterward and what do you advise people to do?
Nikki: My advocacy work had helped me cope. Forcing myself to keep my chin up and educate the public has helped a great deal. My family and friends have helped me through the trauma as well. While Ben is no longer physically here to talk me through tough times, I feel like he is watching over me and leading me in some way. I still talk to him in my mind when I have a difficult time and it helps me. People that go through trauma must have some kind of real support in their lives and they must find a way to talk it out. I don’t see how anyone could get through this without a great deal of help from people who care.
The WON: What do you want people to take away from this book?
Nikki: That bad things can happen to good people. These horrible things happen everyday and I can only hope that people will take the proper steps to defend themselves and their families. I would like to see more people getting involved in protecting our rights, otherwise we will lose them. Evil can pay you a visit at anytime and anywhere. I want people to be prepared for that if it does happen.
The WON: For me, I read page after page and thought, “This woman is not a quitter.” How do you find that little sliver of strength left and haul it up there to fight another day?
Nikki: I have to admit, there are some days when it is difficult getting going. You never really know how strong you are until it is your only choice. It’s just the reality I live in now. I still live in Ben’s and my home. I have kept a few of his things that are most sentimental and hope that one day I will be that happy again. I’d like to think it is just around the corner.