The EMP sounds like a good option. It should work well. (You mentioned the easier to use slide release. Remember, that operating the slide release with an empty magazine in place is harder than operating it with a loaded magazine. Something to keep in mind)
Also, keep in mind, if this is a firearm to be used for defensive reasons... you need some quality hollow point ammo.
Walmart sells the old Federal Hydra-shok... but that ammo is outdated and newer rounds work better. Winchester PDX1, Federal HTS, Speer Gold Dot, are all good choices, and usually easy to find. Find one available locally and at a good price and test it in the pistol for reliability. Several boxes is best. If you have problems... say a couple jams or more... then switch to a different brand hollow point and try again.
One problem is that hollow point ammo tends to be more than double the price of practice FMJ ammo. $35+ per 50 in 9mm is common, but deals can be found. Firing at least 2-3 boxes is a good idea if you can afford it. If not... at least a whole box (of 50) is the bare minimum I would recommend... and I would prefer more. (some say 300+ rounds are needed... ouch $$$)
Also, you want +P for defense. In 9mm, 124gr +P or 147gr +P is considered the best choices. I prefer the 124gr +P, others the 147gr +P, either will work well. They kick more than normal rounds, but you do not shoot them often, so it shouldn't be too much of a problem.
Keep in mind also, that if you chamber and un-chamber the same round into the pistol without firing it. (this is common for pistols used for defense, you unload them often to inspect, clean, and fire practice rounds) Doing this repeatedly with the same round can cause the bullet to push into the case a little farther every time. This is very bad... but avoidable. Google "bullet setback" for more info.
If you, like most of the rest of us, feel the sting of rising ammo prices for regular practice... a 22 pistol is not a bad second purchase. Especially if you find you enjoy shooting.
The Ruger Mark III is a good option, as well as the SR22 pistol. The SR22 has large and small grips to fit many hands, and it is small overall. A basic Mark III can be found new for $275 just about anywhere, the SR22 is about $300-325. The Mark III has a learning curve to disassembly, but a little practice helps. The SR22 is easy to dissemble.
Sometimes a 22 auto-loader can be picky when using some brand/types of ammo, but outright poor functioning across the board with all ammo is rare. Sometimes, a 22 just needs a couple hundred rounds of quality stuff fired through it before it will feed the cheaper stuff.
Bulk pack ammo like Federal, Winchester, Blazer, and others can be had for less than $20 for a 500rd box. I find the Blazer to be the most reliable feeding and performing with very few rounds that need two tries to fire. The Federal and Winchester bulk had many many rounds that needed a second try to fire for me. They also had feeding issues in my rifle.
My SR22 has ran flawlessly with all the ammo I have tried, but the Blazer did leave too much lead fouling in the barrel. Switched to the Winchester M-22, because I found the copper plated stuff did not leave fouling. It has so far proved to be just as reliable as the Blazer, and it only cost a couple dollars more per 500rd box.
Enjoy your new EMP and hopefully to enjoy the hobby as a whole.