Guns and bars should mix, widow says

Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 11:45pm
p07dec 08 benikki cruise.jpg

It’s too late for Ben Goeser to care whether guns are allowed in restaurants or bars or wherever in Tennessee. But if his widow, Nikki Goeser, could have legally carried the gun her late husband bought her for protection into the Nashville restaurant where he was murdered on April 2, 2009, she believes that night might have turned out differently, that she might still have her husband.

Nikki and Ben Goeser ran a karaoke business that bounced them from bar to sports bar to restaurant, enticing patrons to lose their inhibitions with some Don McLean or The Eagles or whoever else was listed in the big book of other people’s songs.

The couple’s trouble with a man named Hank Wise began when he started showing up where the couple set up their karaoke shop. They did so every Thursday night at Jonny’s Sports Bar at 5805 Nolensville Pike, near its intersection with Old Hickory Boulevard.

After Nikki said Wise sent inappropriate messages to her through MySpace, her husband approached him during one of the karaoke nights and told him to stop the contact.

For a while, Wise abided the request. That is, until he showed up at Jonny’s one night just over a year ago. Shortly after Nikki spotted Wise — who was talking with Ben — she asked management to have Wise thrown out.

Nikki said that as her husband worked at the karaoke computer, Wise was told to leave. According to an arrest warrant, while being confronted, Wise pulled a .45-caliber Ruger from his jacket and shot Ben once in the head, then fired five more shots into him. Wise’s murder trial is set to begin in November.

“I was a right-to-carry permit holder at the time of my husband’s death,” Nikki Goeser said, “but because of Tennessee state law, I had to leave my legal, permitted weapon locked in my car just outside the front door. And I got to tell you, I wonder every day what the outcome could have been.”

Two weeks ago, state Rep. Harry Tindell of Knoxville introduced an amendment in a House committee that he said would revert this year’s guns-in-bars bill back to a similar version that became law last summer. It also would remove the vagueness that eventually caused a Davidson County chancellor to deem it unconstitutional last fall.

Tindell’s amendment would allow permit holders to carry guns in restaurants serving alcohol but require business owners to post a sign prohibiting carrying when alcohol sales made up more than 50 percent of overall sales. Other owners would also be allowed to post no-gun signs if they chose.

State Sen. Doug Jackson sees what he called “mechanical issues” with Tindell’s amendment, arguing there is no enforcement mechanism in the bill.

“Who assures that? Who oversees that?” Jackson asked. “If they’re required to post but they don’t post, can a permit holder rely on the fact that there’s no posting and walk into that establishment without running afoul of the law?”

Jackson’s companion bill to the House bill that Tindell amended passed the Senate last week, and the full House is expected to have its own debate as soon as this week.

The Senate bill and its companion bill, sponsored by Rep. Curry Todd in the House, would allow permit holders to carry in establishments that serve alcohol provided the establishment is not posted and the permit holder does not consume any alcohol.

Regarding what he called claims of increased violence and crime by the media and opponents of guns-in-bars/restaurants bills, Jackson pointed back to the four-month period between July and November of last year, when the previous guns-in-restaurants law was in effect.

“None of that happened, and that was not a surprise to me,” Jackson said, “because we looked closely at the experience of other states that have had the same or similar laws for many, many years, and they have not had any pattern of problems.”

But for a permitted carry holder who has worked security at downtown bars, concern about allowing guns into places known primarily as drinking establishments is real.

Jacob Calvin, who goes by Nick, has worked security either as an employee or during special events through security firms at many of the downtown bars and clubs, including Bar Flys, Graham Central Station and Fuel.

“I’m a handgun carry permit holder myself, and I’m all about having your Second Amendment rights,” Calvin said. “If I want to have a handgun on me when I want to go have dinner with my family at Chili’s or Applebee’s or a restaurant that has a bar in it, that’s fine if I’m not drinking.

“But to me, if you’re going to a bar — a honky-tonk — and you’re not drinking and you’re carrying a gun, you’re there to shoot somebody. There’s no other reason why you should carry a gun into a thug club or a honky-tonk-style bar that doesn’t really serve food, because you’re not there to have a great steak, and to me, you’re looking for trouble.”

John Harris, executive director of the Tennessee Firearms Association, tagged along with Goeser for an interview with The City Paper. He said while variations of the hot-button guns-in-restaurants/bars bill have been floated since 1996, “The problem always comes down to, how do you define those bad places sufficiently to overcome the vagueness issue that troubled the court last year?”

Jackson wouldn’t speculate about the Goesers’ case specifically, although he left the door open.

“Could a gun have saved Ben Goeser’s life that night? I don’t know, I don’t know,” Jackson said. “I know this: He’s dead today, and he had no chance under the [current] circumstances. And possibly if Nikki had had access to her gun, her husband may be alive.

31 Comments on this post:

By: dargent7 on 5/3/10 at 5:19

Oh for God's sake. She thinks by bringing her gun to work, she could of saved her husband? He was ambushed, all in less than 8 seconds.
Even if she had the S&W strapped to her thigh, she couldn't whip it out fast enough to prevent his gunshot to the head, probably fatal.
And if she did fire at Wise, she could of hit other people too.
Wise should get the death penalty but a another gun carrier couldn't of saved Goeser's life.

By: xhexx on 5/3/10 at 6:19

Dargent, I know NIkki and have personally heard her version of what happened that night. SInce you weren't there, all you can do is speculate, and from a position of ignorance at that.

As for the idiot bouncer in the article, "But to me, if you’re going to a bar — a honky-tonk — and you’re not drinking and you’re carrying a gun, you’re there to shoot somebody.", this guy is a total jerkoff. I guess he's unfamiliar with the concept of designated driver? Or someone that doesn't drink, period, yet might enjoy the music? This was a reasonably unbiased article until they quoted this butthole.

By: dargent7 on 5/3/10 at 6:38

xhexx: Wise pulled out a gun and shot him, Mr. Goeser, point blank in the head. Either that happened, or it didn't. I believe the article's content. No one could of saved him with or w/o a gun.
Now, for him to pump another 5 bullets into him, if she had a gun on her she may have been able to shoot him at the 3rd round.
But, the gun would of been in her purse, stowed away.
Think before you post.

By: trtay2004 on 5/3/10 at 7:10

Oh please. I agree with Dargent. The lady carrying a gun would not have saved her husband. Why didn't they get a restraining order against the crazy man?

By: NewsReader01 on 5/3/10 at 7:28

I agree with the guns in bars bill. But I also agree her having a gun wouldn't of stopped him from getting shot. Trtay2004 how in the world would a restraining order of done anything? A restraining order doesn't cause a magical barrier of protection around someone.

By: Cookie47 on 5/3/10 at 7:59


A restraining order would have made no difference. You said it yourself. He was crazy and crazy people don't care about a court order. Restraining orders aren't worth the paper they're written on.

I agree with the bill that will hopefully become law soon. I don't think it would have saved this woman's husband but it might save others.


By: EquinsuOcha on 5/3/10 at 8:15

The goverment should not be able to tell a law abiding citizen how and when they can protect theirselves and their family ...........and neither should you idiots

By: dargent7 on 5/3/10 at 8:34

EO: You are the idiot. The gov't says no guns on airplanes. Bad call?
All bars are dimly lit. Maybe 10 watts. Who can shoot straight, hitting their intended target, in that kind of lighting? Add in the element of suprise. Navy SEALs and Wyatt Earp, or Clint Eastwood you people ain't.

By: dargent7 on 5/3/10 at 8:39

re: Restraining Orders: It does something. It shows the nutcase others' mean business. And if they had taken out one on this Wise psychopath, once he entered the bar, they could call Police, IMMEDIATELY. (500' protection) Not "talk" to him like Mr. Goeser did. He tried that mano-o-mano thing before, and it wasn't obviously working. STAY AWAY FROM ANYONE YOU HAVE A RO .

By: numbertwo on 5/3/10 at 9:10

Does Sen.Jackson know if she had been drinking that night? The trial will clarify the facts on that..

Rep.Todd is the self proclaimed protector of families and family values. Why is he crowing to his friends about recently threatening his married mistress' husband, Richard Farmer, with a duel at LP Field at sunrise to settle their dispute? Todd really loves guns to solve all arguments. His medical rep "friend", Lea Ann Glen Farmer, has been seen with him numerous times at Morton's, TN Waltz (w/pictures online), recent golf tournament in Memphis, The Rondevous in Memphis and numerous public outings. The married Todd, who is a candidate for Speaker of the House in the next session, is just using the guns bill to raise money for his Speaker's campaign.

By: vechester on 5/3/10 at 9:14

Of course the LIBERAL opinion is going to be that we civilians can do nothing to save ourselves. So let's just let criminals carry into bars because apparently they don't need permission.

By: photopro75 on 5/3/10 at 10:26

Should there should be no such thing as a "gun-free" zone without metal detectors AND personnel trained in security or law enforcement managing the points of entry? Most permit holders who carry on a daily basis don't even like being dis-armed to get on a commercial airliner, but at least there has been adequate screening in most cases.

The "honor system" sucks as a way to control criminals. If the honor system is such a good idea, then why spend the money to put bars and locks on the doors at the jails? For that matter, why do we need police at all? Let's just post the rules somewhere and let everyone abide by them.

For those who think that Nikki couldn't have saved her husband, I encourage you to do some research on armed self defense. A great site to visit is You will find THOUSANDS of cases where it worked. This site only posts news articles with documentation on the incidents. Feel free to confirm the info for yourselves. There are also a lot of cases of self defense that never make the evening news or the paper because they were ended before they started...simply because the good guy had a gun and that was enough to dissuade the criminal. This too is armed self defense. (Would Nikki's behavior or proximity to her husband have been different if she had that resource at her disposal? I do think it is safe to say that if she was willing to give up her protection to follow the rules, she would have also obeyed the rules if they told her she couldn't drink while armed in a bar. It is short sighted to say she could not have affected the outcome of the situation especially given that she did take protective action by doing the only thing she could at the time--asking him to be removed.)

Another argument we hear over and over that the permit holder will shoot innocent people. Please show me the documentation. Yes anything is possible, yet somehow this doesn't seem to be in the statistics.

I was never truly anti-gun, but I wasn't exactly pro-gun until I got challenged on some of my positions and decided to do some research. There is a wealth of info available to anyone who wants to find it. Please take the time to do your research...especially on such an important issue. I went from being neutral to being very pro. Be careful if you decide to look at the facts, because you will have to do something with that knowledge.

I would like to challenge the "8 second" argument also. 8 seconds is more than enough time to react. Please do your research on this also. If the gun is in the holster, most first shots are around1.5 to 2 seconds including the time to draw -- for anyone who practices at all. Pros (civilians who shoot competitively and well trained police/military can easily go from gun in a holster to a well placed first shot in less than 1 second. This includes the reaction time of them realizing that they need to draw the gun. I am not saying that Nikki is one of these, but to say the situation would only have been worse if she had her gun is (at best) naive.

By: nashmusic2244 on 5/3/10 at 2:57

Regardless of whether you can whip out the weapon in time or not is irrelevant. The fact that you are legally permitted to carry it with your CWP you at least have a standing chance.

As the senator stated on the Senate floor, people who carry with their CWP are law-abiding, have passed all the background and training and are duly permitted to carry concealed.

Don't undermine my right to carry concealed with your rhetoric.

Jacob, you work in thug clubs that frankly should not have a license to pour alcohol because of the history of this places and the repeated visits by law enforcement. Just because I carry concealed doesn't mean I am going to shoot. Perhaps you shouldn't be in the security business because you seem to be narrow-minded and illogical. That makes me question your reasonableness and your ability to perform the tasks required by that position.

Eddie Garcia

By: sevesteen on 5/3/10 at 5:12

Ms Goeser was one of the people who testified in an Ohio Senate hearing where we are trying to pass a similar bill. I thank her for her courage and help.

Where statistics are available, people with carry licenses are many times more law abiding than average--If you are not going to start violence, we are not the ones you need to worry about. Nikki is one of several examples of why it does not make sense to distinguish between bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. Other senate testimony was of vending machine operators who were encouraged to get their licenses--but mosty of their customers were bars and restaurants, so they usually could not carry. Why should they be restricted? Should the bartender be guaranteed to be disarmed? There is a place near my home that is a bar by any sensible definition, but serves excellent pizza--I haven't had a drink there in 10 years or more, but pick up a pizza every now and then. Why is that more of a problem than Dominoes? Is there really a benefit in distinguishing between the bar that serves good pizza, a pizza place that serves beer, and a pizza-only place?

Most of us agree that people who are drinking should not have guns. We are not asking for that-we are asking to match the majority of states that allow carry where alcohol is served, and do not have problems resulting from that.

By: GUARDIAN on 5/3/10 at 6:31

Thank you photopro75 for a well written post. (dargent7 you are a moron) Please have a yellow cap made with "I hate guns so never help me if I'm about to be murdered". Nikki I'm sorry for your lose and I know you would of tried to save Ben and maybe you would of. I don't drink and never have. I teach permit classes and have for 15 years plus I have taught advanced classes to LEO and military for over 30 years. I practice almost every day and although I don't shoot competitively any longer I can still draw/fire/hit in under 1 second within 50 feet and my glock never leaves my side during my waking hours. I don't go to bars but my family and friends do go out to eat in nice places where drinks are served. When this bill becomes law hopefully those places will let us know who supports the Second Amendment so we can boycott those that don't. In case you gun hating socialist nazi are wondering my glock is in a lock box in my vehicle but I do have a small PF-9 backup. lol

By: dargent7 on 5/3/10 at 9:03

GUARDIAN: Well, welcome to the South and Nashville. And you wonder why 75% of the USA considers "the south" a bunch of redneck, backward's thinkin' morons? Re-read your post. Jeff Foxworth's bit went out of style 15 years ago.

By: joeboone82 on 5/4/10 at 7:33

DARGENT7.... you're right. We are in the south, and here, I would say you are in the minority on this issue. Suggestion... move to D.C. or Cali if this issue doesnt go your way.

Also, the security guard in the article must not have read the Nashville City Paper about security guards beating tourists to a pulp. It was an article about a week ago. One security guard slammed a guy's face into the concrete repeatedly. Maybe that's what he doesnt want patrons to carry.

By: EquinsuOcha on 5/4/10 at 8:03

DARGENT7 is "easy pickins" for the criminal element.........go ahead and rely on the cops to protect you........I'll take matters in my own hands

By: dangremillion on 5/4/10 at 9:07

if it had been know that lawful people and the owners could carry their firearms on their belt or otherwise on their person, the shooter may not have chanced bringing a loaded .45 into the establishment. for that matter, the shooter may have backed off on the harassament issue after the first warning. when a lawful person goes into a bar with a firearm, his intent is not to shoot anyone, but only to protect himself against those who are in the bar with an illegal firearm that will not be detected by either the owner or police by means of metal detectors and searching. if it these measures are used i will be glad to glad to sideline my piece, but until then, i will not be a sitting duck in any place of business or entertainment. i realize many folks wont understand this but that is neither here nor there. the law is what it is now and thats that.

By: dargent7 on 5/4/10 at 5:52

StarDate 05/04/10:
The wife would not have been able to protect her husband from this psychopath.
Not with a gun, baseball bat, taser, anything.
You bleeding heart Republicans only want to showcase her tragedy to further your pathetic, insane agenda: more guns, everyone has a gun, everywhere, at any time, at any place.
You all are a bunch of sniveling, weak , emasculated sociopaths.
Grow some brains and cahones to match. Then you won't need a firearm.

By: Faitmaker on 5/4/10 at 6:56

"Get a restraining order" because the whole "no guns in bars" law worked really well with keeping him out. As she says in her speeches, restraining orders do not work. And there are many stories of people who have protected themselves with firearms and those who will never have the chance because of such legislation.

@Dargent: "Grow some cahones and you won't need a firearm". I suppose that worked out real well for Ben Goeser. Why is it that anti's and liberals equate owning a gun with male gentilia? And then try to pass off that gun owners are the one's who are compensating. I can tell you this, Nikki won't be growing gentilia. She also takes her safety so seriously that even before her husband was shot, she had many, many, many firearm classes under her belt. You really need to get to know the woman before you spit in her eye. And lose the attitude. I don't know why you feel so much contempt for someone who wants to carry a firearm.

And last but not least, it bothers me that millions of people walk into a bar every night with their car keys but can't carry a gun. What is the single easiest thing any of those people could do? Get into their cars and drive a 3000lb machine around after having a drink or two. I never carry a gun while drinking. Ever. Ever. You are willing to entrust *all* of those people not to drive drunk while driving is not a right. Yet you will not entrust a person to have enough sense to drink and shoot everyone and bearing arms is a right. So a soccer mom has a bad day with the kids, drinks a few at the bar on Friday night with the kids and kills a family of 5 coming back from a movie. Cars at bars is allowed. "What's that?" There are laws against driving drunk. There are punishments for hurting people. Yep.

You want a better story? One in which she more than likely could have shot the assailant? Google Suzanna Hupp.

By: EdsOrder on 5/4/10 at 7:37

OF COURSE Nikki did not say she wants guns and bars to mix. That is what the liberal anti gunner (like James Nix) hears and writes to sell papers. I know Nikki personally. And have talk to her about this very thing.

It comes down to a very simple thing. Honest, law abiding citizens should be able to carry where ever their life takes them. When you create GUN FREE ZONES, you create a playground for criminals. Columbine High School, Fort Hood, Virginia Tech, (the list goes on and on) were ALL gun free zones. Look at Crime in NY or DC or Maryland or all the places where only BAD GUYS have guns and the normal every day American is disarmed. That is where the crime happens.

What Nikki said is that she should have been able to carry so she could have had a CHANCE at saving Ben's life. Doesn't matter if it was at a Bar, Grocery Store, Movie Theatre, Church, Car Wash, Hardware Store.. ANYWHERE!

Remember, when SECONDS COUNT, the police wre just MINUTES AWAY. GUNS SAVE LIVES!

By: Cookie47 on 5/5/10 at 6:30

dargent7 is just a typical anti-gunner. He/She doesn't understand why HCP holders carry but does know he/she doesn't like guns and is scared of them. He/She is probably scared of and/or doesn't like anything. They have no facts to back up their fear or lack of knowledge so they call names and level insults like some immature middle-schooler.

For the love of God, boy/girl, grow up then come back and discuss this like an adult.


By: EdsOrder on 5/5/10 at 6:40

Jacob Calvin (Nick) says "“But to me, if you’re going to a bar — a honky-tonk — and you’re not drinking and you’re carrying a gun, you’re there to shoot somebody. There’s no other reason why you should carry a gun into a thug club or a honky-tonk-style bar that doesn’t really serve food, because you’re not there to have a great steak, and to me, you’re looking for trouble.”

yeah that.. OR you are looking to DEFEND YOURSELF from one of those TROUBLE SEEKERS!

By: on 5/5/10 at 9:50

At the very least, had she been carrying, she may have eliminated this scum-bag from the face of the earth, and we wouldn't be spending all this energy trying him, and then having to pay for his sorry butt in prison. I am fed up with law-abiding citizens, especially while trying to make an honest living, being victimized by these thugs.

By: Cookie47 on 5/5/10 at 10:03

stlgtr55, if Ms. Goeser "eliminated this scum-bag", she could have been charged with murder. Yes, Wise needs to die and die slowly but, I think you'll agree, not at the expense of Ms. Goeser's freedom. This guy shot her husband at point blank range in the head. There was no chance of saving him. However, if Wise had then turned the gun on her, then, yes, blow his sorry ass away.


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