An Idaho mother was shot and killed by her 2-year-old son while shopping at a Hayden, Idaho, Wal-Mart on Tuesday. The child had reached into his mother’s bag and found a concealed gun, which he then fired. The victim has been identified as Veronica J. Rutledge, 29, of Blackfoot, Idaho.
Rutledge, 29, had been shopping with her four children, according to spokesman Stu Miller of the Kootenai County sheriff’s office. They were in the northern Idaho area on a visit to see relatives. The woman had a permit to carry a concealed weapon, which was in her handbag while she was shopping. While her young son was left sitting in the shopping cart, he went into his mother’s bag and took hold of her small-caliber gun. The gun went off one time, killing the woman at approximately 10:20 a.m.
Responding sheriff’s deputies found the woman dead at the scene. Miller said that it appears as though the shooting was “a pretty tragic accident.” Echoing his sentiment was Wal-Mart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan, who called the incident a “very sad and tragic accident.”
The woman’s husband was not on the shopping trip with the family, but arrived on the scene just after the incident occurred. All four children were transported to the house of a relative. The Wal-Mart was closed following the shooting and will likely remain so until Wednesday morning.
Everytown for Gun Safety released a report in June 2014 which states that in the time period from Dec. 2012 to Dec. 2013, at least 100 children were shot and killed in gun accidents, a figure that amounts to nearly two deaths per week. Sixty-five percent of these accidental gun deaths occurred in the vehicle or car of the victim. In most cases the guns involved were owned legally, but left unsecured. Nineteen percent happened in a relative or friend’s home.
The organization believes that over 67 percent of the accidental shootings by children could have been prevented if the guns had been stored responsibly (locked and unloaded) and away from the reach of children. Laws do exist which make it a crime to improperly store a firearm, but the severity of the law differs state by state, and not all states have them.
In California, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts and Minnesota, gun owners can be charged with a crime even if no harm has been caused. All of these states, with the exception of Minn., can charge the owner with either a felony or a misdemeanor. Minn. law allows for only a misdemeanor charge.
The following states consider it a crime only if a child has accessed the gun: Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Texas. Only Conn. and Fla. have the option of charging violators of the law with a felony.
In Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin will charge an owner with a crime if he intentionally, knowingly or recklessly gives a child a gun. Of these, Colo., Ga., Ind., Nev., and Pa. consider it a felony. The remaining states do not deem it illegal to store a firearm where children can access it.
Hayden, Idaho is located approximately 40 miles to the north and east of Spokane, Washington. According to Buchanan, Wal-Mart will fully cooperate with the Kootenai County, Idaho, sheriff’s department during the investigation into the shooting.
By Jennifer Pfalz