Perhaps you've heard this story by now:
A young Oklahoma mother shot and killed an intruder to protect her 3-month-old baby on New Year's Eve, less than a week after the baby's father died of cancer.
Sarah McKinley says that a week earlier a man named Justin Martin dropped by on the day of her husband's funeral, claiming that he was a neighbor who wanted to say hello. The 18-year-old Oklahoma City area woman did not let him into her home that day.
On New Year's Eve Martin returned with another man, Dustin Stewart, and this time was armed with a 12-inch hunting knife. The two soon began trying to break into McKinley's home.
As one of the men was going from door to door outside her home trying to gain entry, McKinley called 911 and grabbed her 12-gauge shotgun.
Ms. McKinley asked the 911 dispatcher if she could shoot the intruders if one of them crossed the threshhold. The dispatcher said "I can't tell you that you can do that but you do what you have to do to protect your baby". When one of the intruders kicked down the front door, Ms McKinley shot and killed him. The other intruder later turned himself into the police.
It's a good story, with a happy ending. And I don't think anyone, regardless of their views about gun control or the Second Amendment, believes that Ms. McKinley was in the wrong.
But now the woman and the story has become a cause celebre for the right wing noise machine and pro-gun lobby. Even Sarah Palin has weighed in:
“I love that young woman. I’m all in favor of girls with guns who know their purpose. She fulfilled a purpose of the Second Amendment. I’d advise my own daughters to do the same. This mom protected an innocent life. Kudos to the 911 dispatcher, too.”
That the McKinley story ended happily is great — but to draw some larger conclusion for it would be wrong. Because for every McKinley story, there are several stories like the ones below, starting with this one which happened just after Christmas:
THREE RIVERS, Mich. (WOOD) – A woman allegedly shot her husband — the pastor of a local Baptist church — on accident while intoxicated on Monday night.
Connie C. Tolbert of Three Rivers is facing felony charges stemming from allegations that she shot her husband in the shoulder after the couple heard a suspicious sound outside their home. Police said she was intoxicated at the time of the incident.
Connie Tolbert, 54, has been charged with two felony counts: use/discharge of a firearm while under the influence of alcohol causing serious impairment and felony use of a firearm.
She also faces misdemeanor careless discharge of a firearm causing injury or death and misdemeanor discharge of a firearm while aimed without malice but with injury.
The suspect's husband Darryl Tolbert, 52, suffered a gunshot wound to his right shoulder, according to St. Joseph County Undersheriff Mark Lillywhite. He was treated at Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo and released.
The undersheriff said that the couple was in their home on Johnson Road in Flowerfield Township, just north of Three Rivers, when they heard a strange sound outside at about 7 p.m. on Monday.
Darryl Tolbert told Connnie to get her .380-caliber handgun (which is legally owned and registered to her) and the two went out into their back yard. The couple was standing about three feet apart when another noise caused Darryl Tolbert to move suddenly, startling his wife and causing her to discharge her weapon, Lillywhite said.
Lillywhite also said that alcohol was a main factor in the incident, which has been classified as accidental.
Darryl Tolbert is listed as the pastor of the Bethel Baptist in Three Rivers, according to the church's website. Two parishioners also confirmed to 24 Hour News 8 that Darryl Tolbert was the pastor.
Or this, from last November:
A 56-year-old woman from the 2400 block of Burbank Street was arrested Nov. 17 at her home for reckless conduct after she allegedly shot her husband in the back. The man was transported to Provena St. Joseph Medical Center to remove the .38-caliber bullet and repair a broken rib. The woman reportedly was attempting to uncock a Ruger revolver when the gun accidentally fired.
Or this, from last month:
(CBS) DAVIE, Fla. – A 40-year-old man was reportedly rushed into surgery Sunday after he was accidentally shot in the stomach by his girlfriend, police say.
CBS Miami reports 40-year-old Kristi Ellis was cleaning a handgun at 4 a.m. in her home Sunday morning when it went off, striking her boyfriend, 40-year-old Michael Allih, in the abdomen.
Ellis called police as soon as the weapon went off and hit Allih, said police Sgt. Christopher Chastain.
According to police, the injury did not appear life-threatening, but Allih was taken to Memorial Regional hospital where he underwent surgery to remove the bullet.
Or this, from last summer:
A family was grieving Monday after a Texas woman accidentally shot and killed her husband while trying to fend off a pit bull that threatened their grandchildren.
And so on.
So, Sarah Palin, before we get all Rambo'ed up on the idea of "girls with guns", let's remember that guns are dangerous in the hands of anybody – male or female — and accidents can happen even when the gun owners own them for the right purposes. (Men are, of course, just as accident prone as women in this regard).
The McKinley story had a happy outcome, but so often, these stories do not end that way (which, I submit, is why the McKinley story is national news, while the other ones never make it to mational acclaim). And we're going to have an honest debate about gun ownership, we need to consider all these stories.