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Op-Ed: My husband was killed in a ‘gun free zone.’ Arm teachers for safety and to save lives

The following Op-Ed by Nikki Goeser was featured in The Tennessean.

My husband Ben and I used to run a mobile karaoke business in Nashville.

Every Thursday evening, we would load up our vehicle and head to a popular restaurant to help facilitate a night of good music and great memories.

As a woman who was concerned for her safety, I usually carried my permitted concealed handgun with me.

But in April of 2009, Tennessee did not allow carrying firearms in restaurants that served alcohol, so I left my handgun locked inside of my vehicle.

While Ben and I obeyed Tennessee law that night, my stalker did not. He walked into the restaurant, which was classified as a “Gun Free Zone” and shot my husband seven times at close range.

Ben died that night in front of me and 50 witnesses. My dreams of becoming a mother and building a family together died too.

While my story is unique, violence and murder in “Gun Free Zones” are not. 

According to a 2018 report by Crime Prevention Research Center, a research and education organization on guns, crime and public safety, 94% of mass public shootings occur in “Gun Free Zones.”

In my home state of Tennessee, where three 9‑year‑old children and three adults were massacred at The Covenant School, the killer’s manifesto made a note to check the parking lot for security before entering the building. The killer had “looked at” two other schools, both public, before deciding “the security was too great to do what (the alleged shooter) wanted to do.”

So, the killer chose a private Christian school, where the security “is a whole lot less,” while updating the murderous plot to attack the more vulnerable location, in order to get a higher body bag count.

Clearly, these evil people aren’t looking for a fair fight. They want full control and no opposition along the way. That’s why “Gun Free Zones” continue to be their No. 1 destination for a massacre.

At school, our children and grandchildren are vulnerable to harm. Allowing teachers and administrators to carry concealed firearms on campus will only make our schools safer.

While school resource officers (SROs) can provide an important layer of protection and support in our schools, employing – and arming – one person to safeguard an entire campus is simply inadequate.

Consider the following quote from Sarasota County, Florida, Sheriff Hoffman in Real Clear Investigations:

“A deputy in uniform has an extremely difficult job in stopping these attacks,” Hoffman said. “These terrorists have huge strategic advantages in determining the time and place of attacks. They can wait for a deputy to leave the area or pick an undefended location. Even when police or deputies are in the right place at the right time, those in uniform who can be readily identified as guards may as well be holding up neon signs saying, ‘Shoot me first.’ My deputies know that we cannot be everywhere.”

Through this legislation, teachers who have a handgun carry permit, written authorization from both the school’s principal and local law enforcement, and complete 40 hours of firearms training will have the ability to carry concealed on campus. In an active shooter situation, police will already know exactly who the legally armed teachers are, and those teachers will have the ability to quickly respond, neutralize the threat, and ultimately prevent or reduce the loss of life that can occur before police are able to arrive on scene.

While this legislation is far from perfect, it is an extra layer of security and a huge step in the right direction. Senate Bill 1325 does not solve all of the ills that plague our community, state, or country, but allowing highly competent and approved educators to carry concealed firearms will undoubtedly save lives.

I know that speeches, letters, vigils, and even legislation won’t bring back my husband, the six innocent lives lost at The Covenant School, or the countless others killed by deranged, evil people, but this is an opportunity to prevent the next senseless tragedy.

I’m very grateful that Governor Bill Lee has signed this legislation and made this law.

Nikki Goeser is senior fellow of theCrime Prevention Research Center, author of “Stalked and Defenseless”, and a Tennessee Delegate of Women for Gun Rights.

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