Disarmed And In Danger!

“Every one of these places where terrible massacres had taken place was a place guns weren’t allowed! Does anyone see a pattern here?” —Suzanna Gratia Hupp, Excerpted from Mother’s Day 2000 Speech, Washington, D.C.

“Every one of these places where terrible massacres had taken place was a place guns weren’t allowed! Does anyone see a pattern here?” —Suzanna Gratia Hupp, Excerpted from Mother’s Day 2000 Speech, Washington, D.C.

THE FEDERAL BUREAU of Investigation says violent crime is decreasing in America. It’s a lie, perpetuated by an inherently faulty system of reporting. The FBI does a pretty good job snooping into email or reading Facebook, but the government organization is just another bumbling bureaucracy—with guns, a license to kill, and a good PR department.

The problem is that people pay attention to the FBI, treat the institution with respect, and repeat the numbers it compiles as if they are accurate. Nothing could be further from the truth. Take rape…

The FBI reported that 83,425 “forcible rapes” were committed in the U.S. in 2011. But each state interprets that crime a bit differently, and Illinois refuses to report at all.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the FBI figures are preposterous. Rape, says the CDC, is “systematically underreported”—and this in a nation that does not allow trading young girls for goats or sheep. The CDC says 1.3 million U.S. women (and a handful of men) are raped every year. Most victims know their rapist, rape by a stranger is rare, and only three percent of rapists ever go to jail.

Nicole Reneé “Nikki” Goeser’s story began with a brutal rape in a city 2,000 miles away. Her path to awakening came with a truly inhuman rape only 200 miles away.

OCTOBER 22, 2007 – RENO, NEVADA

Amanda Collins, 21, a female student at the University of Nevada-Reno, a designated gun-free zone, has parked her car in a campus garage. It is barely 50 feet from off-duty campus police department cruisers.

After class that evening she returns to the garage, walking in a group of students. She waves goodbye and walks toward her automobile. She is now alone, she thinks, and safe.

Crouched between parked cars, James Michael Biela, 27, of Sparks, Nevada, is waiting. A former Marine and local pipe-fitter, Biela has a gun. Collins has a concealed weapons permit but, respecting campus policies, she does not carry on campus. Biela has no such legal or moral scruples. He rushes out and assaults Collins from behind. Although she has self-defense training, the suddenness of his attack overwhelms her.

Biela shoves his gun in her face. “He put a firearm to my temple,” she says, “clicked off the safety, and told me not to say anything, before he raped me.” He rips at her clothes and brutally rapes her on the cement floor of the university parking garage.

A serial rapist, Biela attacks other women—and on January 20, 2008—kidnaps and then murders 19-year-old Brianna Zunino Denison.

 

Biela is convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping, and sexual assault. The jury gives him the death penalty and the judge adds four life sentences.

 

Following Denison’s murder, law enforcement—which barely sniffs at a rape, even a vicious attack such as that on Collins—soon captures Biela, but only after Biela’s girlfriend, Carleen Harmon, agrees to cooperate. Biela is convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping, and sexual assault. The jury gives him the death penalty and the judge adds four life sentences.

Biela’s public defenders appeal the verdict. On August 2, 2012, Chief Justice Michael Cherry of the Nevada Supreme Court says death is “not excessive” in this case.

Editor’s note:

Since the legal resolution of her case, Amanda Collins has become an outspoken advocate for concealed carry, an activist who testifies against the spread of gun-free zones, the idea that a painted sign and good intentions are salvation.

“I was in a safe zone, but my attacker didn’t care. If I had been carrying that night,” Collins has often said, “two other rapes would have been prevented and a young life would have been saved. Basically, I was legislated into being a victim.”

Collins’ story, her defense of concealed carry, and the right of a citizen to protect herself made a friend 2,000 miles away. The tragedy connects her to Nicole “Nikki” Goeser.

In the evenings, Ben and Nikki Goeser operate a professional karaoke entertainment company. Their set up encourages customers at bars, restaurants, and private venues to sing and dance, eat and drink. Nikki chats up customers and operates the equipment. Ben is the smiling host, encouraging patrons to cut loose and enjoy. To have fun. Life, after all, is short; play hard.

Nikki has a pistol and a concealed carry permit, obtained when she learned about the merciless, cold-blooded abduction, rape, torture, and murders of Channon Christian and boyfriend Christopher Newsom in Knoxville, Tennessee on January 6-7. Christian and Newsom were students at the University of Tennessee, a gun-free zone.

When they were finally located, the two young students were already grisly corpses. They had spent their final hours suffering the most agonizing and unimaginable miseries their abductors could devise before they were killed.

Three men and a woman—Lemaricus Devall “Slim” Davidson (25), his half-brother Letalvis Cobbins (24), George Thomas (27), and Vanessa Coleman (18)—were eventually arrested for the crimes. Davidson was sentenced to death; Cobbins and Thomas to life without the possibility of parole; Coleman to 53 years; and accomplice Eric DeWayne Boyd (34) to 18 years.

And so on the evening of April 2nd, Nikki and Ben pack their karaoke gear and drive to Jonny’s Sports Bar. In accord with Tennessee law, which forbids carrying firearms into bars and restaurants, Nikki leaves her Smith & Wesson .38 Airweight locked inside the glove compartment of her car. It’s a mistake she’ll regret for the rest of her life.

INFATUATED BLAMES CRAZY

Barely known to Nikki and Ben, a fan has become infatuated with the statuesque, blue-eyed blonde. Hank Wise, a small, 43-year-old man with a sad, drooping mustache, begins attending their hosted venues around Nashville. He joins their “MySpace” fan group and sends private messages to Nikki.

At first, Wise seems like just another odd tourist: introverted, meek, a lost little man infatuated with a pretty girl that he can never have. As chief party host, Ben notices the man’s uneasiness, aloofness, and attempts to involve Wise in the singing and general merrymaking, but Wise’s messages to Nikki soon change from “Great show tonight!” to “What are you doing with that man? He’s too old for you. You’ve made a mistake. Don’t you want children?”

A psychology graduate from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Nikki initially returns Wise’s messages with kindness. Wise is acting inappropriately, she writes, and she is happily married. (“You tell men that,” Nikki says, “but they still hit on you when they think your husband isn’t looking.”)

 

Nikki crosses the room with her “tip jar,” a traditional way for customers to show their appreciation for the work of the mobile karaoke team, but she ignores Wise without stopping or even acknowledging his presence.

 

When Nikki rebuffs his electronic advances, Wise sends her a “mean spirited response,” she says, “tearing down my appearance. So I deleted him from our MySpace fan base and blocked his messages.” This does not keep Wise from attending the Goeser’s karaoke presentations, however, and for a while the Goesers simply try to ignore him.

It isn’t over though. Wise keeps showing up, but not to enjoy the party atmosphere. He simply stands in the crowd and stares at Nikki.

Ben finally confronts him: “You’re scaring my wife. Leave her alone.” Wise brushes it all off as a misunderstanding, blaming the inappropriate messages on a “crazy ex-girlfriend who hacked into his account.”

Nikki crosses the room with her “tip jar,” a traditional way for customers to show their appreciation for the work of the mobile karaoke team, but she ignores Wise without stopping or even acknowledging his presence. “I didn’t want his money,” she says. He eventually leaves.

APRIL 2, 2009 – NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE

It’s a dark Thursday night in Music City. Severe weather, including an EF-1 tornado, lashes the area. High winds overturn semis on Interstate 40, and downpours flood Briley Parkway and force a temporary shutdown of the International Airport. Despite the storms, Nikki and Ben Goeser are going to work.

They have booked their karaoke show at Jonny’s Sports Bar, 10 miles southeast of downtown at 5805 Nolensville Pike. It’s been a month since she snubbed Hank Wise, bypassing him with her tip jar, and the Goesers have forgotten him. Nevertheless, he shows up again, and again only stands and stares at Nikki.

Gun-free zones remove the tools honest people can use to protect themselves. A pose such as this will not stop an attacker.

Gun-free zones remove the tools honest people can use to protect themselves. A pose such as this will not stop an attacker.

The couple does not know that Wise had, the day before, posted a bizarre note on his MySpace blog: “Forever unforgiven, I know who you are, run. You’re going to see my bad side. It’s going to be extremely painful. I’ll be on the hunt, predator and prey. You’re forever unforgiven.”

Wise’s creepy stare upsets Nikki. He is not just a fan with an inappropriate crush, a small, needy man who has gone too far. He is a stalker and he is dangerous. She complains to Jonny’s management and they ask Wise to leave. Wise listens for a moment, and then pulls a .45 semi-automatic hidden in a shoulder holster under his jacket. He shoots Ben in the head and Ben collapses. The gun’s report is like a thunderclap inside the bar, stunning the patrons. In the momentary lull before pandemonium, Wise steps forward and shoots Ben five more times.

Customers pile on top of Wise and subdued him, but Ben Goeser is dead. Arriving several minutes later, police take Wise to the Davidson County Jail where his bond is set at $1 million. Years later at trial, Wise’s father describes his son as paranoid. His sister testifies that Wise believes people (including his ex-wife) are scheming to kill him. A defense psychiatrist suggests Wise suffers from a mental illness called delusion disorder. Wise’s lawyers argue the murderer doesn’t understand that shooting Ben was wrong, that Wise is therefore not guilty by reason of insanity.

At trial, Nikki is asked whether she believes Ben’s killer also intended to harm her. “Yes,” she said. “When the police searched his truck that night they found two more guns, ammo, a baseball bat, binoculars, gloves, rope, and a knife. That’s no medical kit. I do believe he would have done something to harm me.”

On April 11, 2012, three years after he murdered Ben Goeser, Hank Wise is found guilty of second-degree murder by judge Seth Norman, even though Wise intentionally carried a loaded gun into a posted gun-free zone. Wise of course had no carry permit and had ignored state law forbidding firearms in bars and restaurants. On August 22nd, Wise was sentenced to 23 years in prison, without the possibility of parole.

THE TAKEAWAY

When Ben collapsed, Nikki’s first thought felt stunned and helpless. After a year, four months, and two days of happiness with Ben, a man was standing over her husband and shooting him again and again.

Nikki is no longer helpless, no longer stunned. Her 160-page book, Denied a Chance – How Gun Control Helped a Stalker Murder my Husband, was published in May, 2013 by White Feather Press and is available either as a paperback or an e-book.

Suzanna Gratia Hupp, survivor of a mass shooting in Texas in which her mother and father died, introduced Nikki’s book: “She has successfully channeled her pain and rage into a cause in the hopes that others might learn from her experience.”

Nikki Goeser still lives in Tennessee, but now is a deeply committed Second Amendment activist. The National Rifle Association presented her with its 2012 Sybil Ludington Women’s Freedom Award, which recognizes heroines and their legislative work to protect the Second Amendment. (Gratia Hupp received the award in 1997.)

 

LET’S FACE IT: gun-free zones were put in place by politicians because they thought they would minimize harm, but they have done the opposite.

 

The focus of Nikki’s public speaking is negating the idea that a gun-free zone provides protection from men like Hank Wise, who murdered her husband, Ben; from James Biela, who murdered Brianna Denison and raped Amanda Collins; or from Lemaricus Davidson, Letalvis Cobbins, George Thomas, Vanessa Coleman, and Eric Boyd, who enjoyed torturing, raping and killing Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom.

Recognizing Nikki’s work, NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox said, “That ban on self-protection in restaurants created the ideal environment for a stalker to become a murderer. Imagine the agony of having the one person you love more than anyone else on earth die before your eyes, knowing you could have saved them, knowing you had the means to save them right outside in the car, but the law wouldn’t let you. What kind of law is that?”

Indeed, what kind of country is that?

NIKKI GOESER ON GFZ

Signs such as this are prominently posted at universities around the U.S. This sign stands at the entrance to a new parking garage at the University of Florida in Gainesville. No sign can stop a person intent on causing pain and suffering. A gun-free zone sign did not stop Amanda Collins’ rapist or the five who kidnapped, tortured and murdered Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom, or Ben Goeser’s killer.“The belief that gun-free zones make us safe is false,” says Nikki Goeser. “Why are so many college students the victims of horrible crimes while on campus all across the nation? Colleges in the U.S that allow permit holders to carry on campus have not seen horrific crimes because those adult students have the ability to defend themselves and the bad guys know it. It is a powerful deterrent.”

Signs such as this are prominently posted at universities around the U.S. This sign stands at the entrance to a new parking garage at the University of Florida in Gainesville. No sign can stop a person intent on causing pain and suffering. A gun-free zone sign did not stop Amanda Collins’ rapist or the five who kidnapped, tortured and murdered Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom, or Ben Goeser’s killer.“The belief that gun-free zones make us safe is false,” says Nikki Goeser. “Why are so many college students the victims of horrible crimes while on campus all across the nation? Colleges in the U.S that allow permit holders to carry on campus have not seen horrific crimes because those adult students have the ability to defend themselves and the bad guys know it. It is a powerful deterrent.”

Like paint in the street designating a bicycle lane, paint on a door or window saying guns are not allowed gives patrons a false sense of security.“

I respect the right of property owners and their decision about what is or is not allowed on their property, but I do not believe that ‘no guns allowed’ signs are smart. Someone with evil intent will simply ignore their sign and everyone in their business will be sitting ducks. We’ve seen this often on the news. Criminals and psychopaths go to places where they are met with no resistance to kill as many people as possible. It baffles me how business owners don’t understand this.“

Let’s face it, gun-free zones were put in place by politicians because they thought it would minimize harm, but they have done the opposite. When law-abiding people don’t have the tools to defend themselves, they easily become victims. I believe the way you minimize the damage is to allow good people to have the ability to stop evil right away. The saying, ‘When seconds count, the police are only minutes away,’ is true. Perpetrators are only stopped by a gun in the hands of a good person.“

As far as the risk of allowing permit holders to carry in restaurants that serve alcohol, most states allow it and none of them have repealed the law. These states have not seen a problem.

“Most states make it clear that if you carry, you cannot consume alcohol. These states have not had a problem. 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 blood-alcohol limit) and this state has not had a problem.“

Unlike criminals, law-abiding permit holders go through training that 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 care nothing about penalties. Permit holders are trained and law-abiding and know they must be very careful, perhaps almost too careful because they do fear the penalties. I don’t think any of us could live with ourselves if we harmed an innocent person.

“Life is measured by moments of happiness. My greatest happiness was taken from me by a man who didn’t follow naively enacted laws. The penalty for breaking that law meant nothing to someone bent on murder. Murder is illegal to begin with and substantial jail time is a no-brainer penalty that didn’t deter him. Do you really think a gun-free zone sign will stop someone like that? I followed the law because the penalties for carrying in a gun-free zone could mean jail time and losing my carry permit. These were real penalties for someone like me.

“To gun-free zone advocates I’d say, ‘Walk a mile in my shoes,’ but I don’t want anyone to experience this kind of pain, even if they helped make Ben’s murder easy by making us helpless.”

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