The night after my first child was born and I saw him lying in his little bassinet beside me, all tiny and perfect and new, I was overcome with this powerful instinct that I would do anything in this world to protect him.
Sometimes I’d lie in bed at night sick with worry at all the “what ifs” in life. What would I do if someone broke into my home and tried to kidnap my children? Would I be able to physically harm someone if they posed a threat to my family?
Eighteen-year-old Sarah McKinley proved she’d do just that New Year’s Eve when she shot and killed a man who broke into her Oklahoma City-area home that she shared with her 3-month old baby.
“I wouldn’t have done it, but it was my son,” she said during an interview with ABC News. “It’s not an easy decision to make, but it was either going to be him or my son. And it wasn’t going to be my son.”
McKinley was home alone with her baby on New Year’s Eve when two men appeared at her door with a 12-inch long hunting knife and began breaking in. One of those men had shown up on her doorstep a week earlier, claiming to be a friend of her late husband who passed away on Christmas Day. McKinley did not let him into her home.
Now, with 911 on the phone and her baby safely tucked away with a bottle in his mouth, McKinley stood just outside the bedroom door with both a 12-gauge and a pistol in her hands, prepared to shoot the intruders should they successfully make it into her home.
“I’ve got two guns in my hand – is it OK to shoot him if he comes in this door?” this young teen mother asked the 911 dispatcher. “I’m here by myself with my infant baby, can I please get a dispatcher out here immediately?”
The 911 dispatcher asked McKinley if her doors were all locked; she confirmed they were. When McKinley asked the dispatcher again if it was OK to shoot, the dispatcher responded with, “I can’t tell you that you can do that, but you do what you have to do to protect your baby.”
Sure enough, when the first intruder burst through the door and came after her, McKinley shot and killed him. The second man turned himself in. Police officers are saying this shooting was justified.
I think it’s amazing what the protective instinct inside us is capable of doing. This was a very young woman who had been through a lot of grief within the last week, what with just losing her husband to cancer, and was now faced with a life-threatening situation where she was able to keep her wits about her and protect herself and her child.
This situation poses an interesting question: Is it safer to own a gun for the rare instance of an intruder, or keep your home gun-free for the safety of your children? This has been a subject for debate in our household, and one that I keep going back and forth on.
A few months ago for book club, we read “Protecting the Gift,” a follow-up to Gavin de Becker’s “The Gift of Fear” geared toward parents with children. In it, Becker talks extensively about gun safety and emphasizes the fact that it is much more likely you’d harm yourself or a loved one with the gun in your home than an unexpected intruder.
I’ve always been terrified of guns, and have never wanted one in the home. But after hearing McKinley’s story, it got me thinking again. Here is evidence that it was actually very beneficial to have a gun in the home. In fact, it saved this family’s life.
However, I have also heard many a story (and read about some terrifying ones in Becker’s book) about kids that somehow got a hold of their parents’ guns that were not locked up and into a dangerous situation where they were still loaded, and the safety was off, and, you get the horrible picture.
Whether or not it’s more or less dangerous to own a gun, there is one thing McKinley said that I think is very clear: “There’s nothing more dangerous than a woman with a child.”
What do you think about keeping guns in the home? Do you think the risks outweigh the benefits?