LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Sarah Palin likes girls with guns.
In an email to National Review Online, Palin said, “I’m all in favor of girls with guns who know their purpose.” The comment referred to Sarah McKinley, the 18-year-old who shot 24-year-old Justin Shane Martin on New Year’s Eve as he tried to break into her Oklahoma home.
Palin said she loved “that young woman.”
“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 dispatcher told McKinley she could do whatever it took to protect her child if her doors were locked. She did. She shot a man dead.
There’s something a bit frightening about teenaged girls running around packing heat. Where I live, it is very common for girls to go hunting with their fathers as a rite of passage. As my colleague Lori Stahl wrote earlier this week, it’s not even uncommon in the South for
suburban moms to carry a gun.
Perhaps McKinley is a very stable 18-year-old who can shoot better than most deer hunters. After all, she killed the intruder with a 12-gauge shotgun. “They made a decision to break into my house, and I made a decision that was right for me,” McKinley told reporters.
But I know more than a few teenagers of both genders, and they should never be near a gun. In Teen Land, everything is traumatic. You try to dye your hair blue, it turns green: “I’ll never leave the house again!” the teenager screams.
Imagine one of these drama kings or queens post-break-up, grabbing his or her rifle.
Or this scenario: Home alone at night, asleep in front of the television, the teen hears something outside the door, grabs a gun and shoots. Except it’s a sibling or parent coming home instead of an intruder.
McKinley, a single mom whose husband had died only a week earlier with lung cancer, had two guns in her hands. The intruder had a 12-inch hunting knife. McKinley won’t face charges for killing Martin.
In Oklahoma, McKinley has become a hero. A fund has been created to help out the “pistol-packing mama” as she’s been dubbed. Some women’s groups are heralding McKinley as a woman who refused to become a victim in her own home.
I understand where they’re coming from, but not everyone is as cool and collected as Sarah McKinley. It’s natural to celebrate the successful defense of hearth and home. But for every gun-brandishing hero or heroine who blows away the intruder, there are many more that get shot with their own guns during a struggle.
Hopefully, McKinley won’t inspire thousands of young mothers, fathers, or any teenagers who want guns – to buy firearms for their homes without, as Palin said accurately, knowing their purpose.
Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt.” Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker