Sarah McKinley became my nominee for mother of the year earlier this month when the 18-year-old Oklahoma widow defended her home and her infant with a pistol and a 12-gauge shotgun.

While two men tried to break into her house, McKinley, whose husband died of cancer on Christmas day, asked the 911 operator if it was okay to shoot. To her everlasting credit, the operator said that McKinley had to do what she had to do. McKinley shot one of the intruders dead and the other fled.

The Sarah McKinley saga reminds us of the truth that guns in the hands of good, law-abiding citizens can deter crime. This is particularly important for women. The story of another woman, medical student Meredith Graves of Tennessee, shows to what extent the nanny state—which may or may not get the cops there in time to save an unarmed victim of a crime—will go to take the ability to defend themselves from women.

Graves, as recounted in the New York Post, was visiting in New York. She had a legal permit to carry a gun in her native Tennessee. Graves spotted a sign at the 9/11 Memorial that said, “No Guns Allowed,” so she dutifully asked a security guard where to check her gun. Graves’ permit to carry a gun is recognized in 40 states—but not in New York.

Here is what happened after Ms. Graves politely inquired about checking her gun:

[S]he was dragged out in cuffs….

Graves…was locked up on a weapons-possession charge and held on $2,000 bond that she posted yesterday. She is due in court on March 19.

She’ll soon find out exactly how serious New York City is about illegal guns. The Manhattan DA’s Office is pursuing a conviction on felony gun possession — carrying a minimum sentence of 3 1/2 years.

Sure, Graves should have checked on the New York gun laws but it is more than clear that she had no intention of breaking the law. Fox News has an article on Graves’ plight by John Lott that includes a status report on gun laws across the nation (and gives a few more examples of people who, unaware of New York law, have taken guns there). The article quotes a top New York Democrat, a gun control advocate, no less, saying Meredith Graves doesn’t deserve to have her life ruined because of this accident.

My colleague Anna recently did a terrific post on the confusing mosaic of gun-control laws in the U.S. You can read the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act, which would have protected Graves from legal difficulties, here. It was passed in the House of Representatives, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens to it in the Senate.

As I’ve said before on Inkwell, I come from a region where hunting is popular and most of the people I know at home own guns. Still, I am personally ill at ease with guns and have never owned one. But I ardently support the right of law-abiding women (and men) to own guns. It is a self-defense issue. Bad people will get guns no matter what the law says. Good people won’t and in many cases not having a gun is the difference between life or death for an unarmed good person confronted with an armed bad person.

I am envisioning a new slogan: Guns Are a Women's Issue!

Ask Sarah McKinley.