Oklahoma woman who fought off intruder, a gun rights symbol, favors background checks

Sarah Dawn McKinley, a young mother from Oklahoma, was thrust into the national spotlight this week when conservatives at the Senate gun hearing cited her run-in with intruders to make the case against Obama’s new gun proposals. On December 31, 2011, Ms. McKinley, at home with her three-month-old baby, fought off two men, killing one who was bearing a knife with her shotgun.

At the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, conservative activists — such as Gayle Trotter — and GOP Senators cited Ms. McKinley’s case to make the case against new gun laws. Ms. McKinley’s story riveted the hearing.

I just got off the phone with Ms. McKinley, and what she told me will give a boost to people on both sides of the argument. She told me she does not favor an assault weapons ban, even though she didn’t use an assault weapon in warding off her intruders.

But Ms. McKinley said she supports the idea of expanding the background check system, telling me: “Anybody should be willing to get a background check that wants to take a gun.”

“I completely agree with background checks,” she said. “If I want a gun I have no problem getting one. I don’t see why anybody would have a problem getting a background check if they have nothing to hide.”

Ms. McKinley herself didn’t get a background check to procure her shotgun. But she said she inherited it from her late husband — which means she likely would have been exempted from the background check system under the current proposal, which would exempt family members. And at any rate, given her willingness to undergo one herself, she’d presumably pass and be able to buy the sort of gun she’d used to defend herself.

Ms. McKinley said she favored background checks, even if it didn’t necessarily guarantee that criminals would never get guns. “I don’t see how that’s going to completely stop criminals from getting guns, but I do agree with background checks.”

However, Ms. McKinley does not favor the assault weapons ban on the grounds that it violates people’s rights, though she suggested she wouldn’t need one herself for self defense.

“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.”

Ms. McKinley also said: “If somebody wants to own one of those guns they have a right to, as long as they pass a background check.”

Ms. McKinley also echoed the language of conservative activist Trotter, who said assault weapons constitute a gender equalizer. Ms. McKinley told me that her gun had “equaled it up” with her intruders. That will lend some support to the gun rights argument, but at the same time, it also should be noted that her gun alone — which would not be prohibited by the assault ban — was enough to equalize things with the intruders, according to Ms. McKinley herself.

As I’ve been saying, the expanded background check is the most important proposal on the table right now — it’s arguably more important than the assault ban. The fact that Ms. 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 ban — alone shows what a no-brainer this proposal really is. Having fought off a home invasion herself with a gun, she does not appear to see expanded background checks as a barrier to acquiring weapons for legitimate self defense — or as an infringement on people’s rights.

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