Several years ago, back when concealed-weapon permits were easier to obtain than they are today, a crazy idea popped into Lois Reckitt’s head.

“I said, ‘Why don’t we have this demonstration — why don’t we have thousands of women go and get concealed-weapon permits to act as a deterrent?’ ” recalled Reckitt, the executive director of Family Crisis Services, in an interview this week.

“Of course,” Reckitt quickly added, “I was joking.”

Of course. But Monday’s shootings of Renee Sandora and Trevor Mills, allegedly by Joel Hayden, Sandora’s boyfriend, brings the statewide domestic-violence death toll to nine so far this year — which makes it hard not to at least ponder the question:

Should these women start arming themselves?

“I have the same reaction when I see one of these things,” confessed Reckitt. “I mean, why don’t you just shoot the guy?”

Because, agree the vast majority of experts in law enforcement and domestic-violence prevention, adding a second weapon to a volatile confrontation between an armed man (and yes, it’s almost always a man) and “his” woman is just as likely to ratchet up the danger as ramp it down.

Still, it’s hard not to hear about Renee Sandora … or Amy Lake, whose husband, Steven, shot her and her two kids before taking his own life in Dexter last month … or Sarah Gordon, gunned down outside her home in Winslow a week earlier by her suicidal husband … and wish that once, just once, the guy wasn’t the only one with a gun.

To which Reckitt responds: Be careful what you wish for.

“The problem is that (women) are not trained to deal with guns,” said Reckitt. “I’m just terrified of all the statistics that say if there’s a gun in the house, the woman is more likely to get killed by that gun than defend herself with it.”

The way Reckitt sees it, women are wired differently than men. Go to a women’s hockey game, for example, and you’ll find “a game that is very different” than the hard-checking, fight-filled version played by the guys.

“The reality is that women are raised to be the people who give birth, who are nurturers, who are family raisers,” Reckitt said. “Their inclination is not to kill people — that whole head set is not there.”

Jill Barkley, public awareness and prevention coordinator for the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, takes that notion one step further: Underlying any domestic-violence confrontation is a relationship in which two people once loved — or thought they loved — each other.

“It’s a pattern of power and control,” said Barkley. “It’s not like he just showed up last night and shot her. It’s confusing because this is a person you’ve been in love with and you’ve been intimate with.”

Hence the question that every woman must ask herself before deciding, as a last line of defense, whether to meet lethal force with lethal force: If it comes down to kill or be killed, can you actually pull the trigger?

“If someone told me, ‘I’m going to go out and buy a firearm,’ I wouldn’t say, ‘Oh no, don’t do that,’ ” said Barkley. “But I would talk about some of the hesitation I would have about that, some of the concerns I would have. But that is ultimately a victim’s choice — if it makes her or him feel safer, who am I?”

Jeff Weinstein of Yarmouth, who owns and operates firearmsafety.net, figures he’s trained upward of 500 Mainers in recent years on how to protect themselves with a firearm. Of those, he estimates, 20 have been women scared to death of a former spouse or boyfriend who’s threatened to kill them and/or their children.

“When somebody threatens to kill you, that to me should be a major sign that something drastic has to be done to defend yourself,” said Weinstein, who also serves as president of the 500-member Maine Gun Owners Association.

In such extreme cases, Weinstein said, things can get “totally weird and irrational” so fast that even if a woman manages to call 911, police often can’t get there in time. And while there may be a protection-from-abuse order in place, he noted, it’s not going to stop a bullet.

(Weinstein, in fact, considers “protection-from-abuse order” a misnomer: “It does nothing to protect you. It’s a legal pronouncement, but what do you do if someone breaks into your home and wants to kill you? Are you going to throw the order at him?”)

To be sure, Weinstein said, not all women in abusive situations should have a loaded pistol tucked away in a nearby drawer or closet. If he senses a woman isn’t prepared to actually use the gun, he said, he’ll steer her toward pepper spray or some other self-defense strategy that doesn’t involve lethal force.

But for a woman who’s properly trained in everything from how the human body responds to a life-threatening situation to the legal intricacies of self-defense, Weinstein said, a defensive weapon can go a long way toward determining who in a domestic-violence incident lives and who, if anyone, dies.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, the gun is never fired,” Weinstein said. “Once (the perpetrator) sees somebody there with a gun who looks like they know how to use it, he’s out of there. He’s gone.”

And if he stays, at least there’s a fighting chance that he, rather than the otherwise helpless woman, will be the one carted away by the medical examiner.

Many will read this and insist that the answer to these tragedies is not more weapons, but rather more prevention, more community awareness and more laws to keep the half-crazed man from pulling into the woman’s driveway in the first place. All excellent ideas, to be sure.

But the more I look back on the too-short lives of Renee Sandora, Amy Lake, Sarah Gordon and all the other innocent victims whose final moments were filled with that unspeakable mix of disbelief and terror, the more I’d like to see a surprise ending to these all-too-familiar tales.

I wish they’d had a gun.

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:

bnemitz@mainetoday.com