Sarah Dawn McKinley, a young mother from Oklahoma, was thrust into the national spotlight during last week’s Senate hearing on guns when conservatives cited her run-in with intruders as part of their argument against President Barack Obama’s gun proposals. On Dec. 31, 2011, McKinley was at home with her 3-month-old when she fought off two male intruders. Using her shotgun, she killed one who was bearing a knife. McKinley’s story riveted the hearing.
I spoke with McKinley last week, and what she told me will give a boost to people on both sides of the argument. She does not favor a ban on assault weapons, she said, but she supports expanding the background-check system.
“I don’t see why anybody would have a problem getting a background check if they have nothing to hide,” she said. “I don’t see how that’s going to completely stop criminals from getting guns, but I do agree with background checks.”
McKinley didn’t undergo a background check to procure her shotgun, which she said she inherited from her late husband. The Obama proposal outlines allowing exemptions from checks for family members of gun buyers.
On the other side, McKinley said she does not favor the assault-weapon ban because it violates people’s rights. “I don’t agree with them banning any guns,” she said. “They are going to start with one, and then they will go to something else. I have no use for an assault weapon. At the same time, I do have the right to decide whether I have one or not.” She said anyone should have the right to own assault weapons “as long as they pass a background check.”
McKinley echoed the language of conservative activist Gayle Trotter, who told a Senate committee that assault weapons constitute a gender “equalizer.” Her gun had “equaled it up” with her intruders, McKinley told me. That will lend some support to the gun-rights argument, but at the same time McKinley’s shotgun – which would not be prohibited by the assault ban – was able to equalize things with her home intruders.
Expanding background checks is the most important proposal on the table – arguably more so than an assault-weapon ban. That McKinley supports it – even though she is widely cited by gun-rights advocates as a poster woman for their cause, and even as she does not support the assault-weapon ban – shows what a no-brainer this proposal is. She fought off a home invasion with a gun and does not view expanded background checks as a barrier to acquiring weapons for legitimate self-defense – or as an infringement on people’s rights.Greg Sargent blogs on domestic politics for The Washington Post.