In a tragic accident certain to renew interest in the national gun control debate, a two-year-old child shot and killed his mother Tuesday morning. In a Hayden, Idaho Wal-Mart, the toddler pulled a gun out of his mother’s purse and discharged one bullet, which struck the victim. The boy’s mother died on the scene.
The mother, Veronica Rutledge of Blackfoot, Idaho, was shopping with her son and three other children at the time of the shooting. She was reportedly in Hayden, located in Idaho’s northern panhandle, visiting relatives. Although the father was not in the store at the time of the shooting, he arrived later to take custody of the children. They are now staying with family.
Around 10:20 a.m., shoppers and employees heard a gunshot as the mother and family were near the electronics section, situated at the back of the store. The store was evacuated immediately. Kootenai County Sheriffs were called to the scene and their investigation continues.
The Sheriff’s department is utilizing the Wal-Mart store’s surveillance footage as well as interviewing witnesses to determine the details of the shooting. Wal-Mart officials released a statement saying they are working with the police to assist with the investigation. The store is closed and is expected to remain so until it reopens Wednesday at 6:00 a.m.
The toddler was left in the shopping cart when he got a hold of the firearm. Veronica Rutledge, 29-years-old, had a concealed weapons permit for the small-caliber handgun used in the shooting.
Idaho, as a state, allows concealed carry and even open carry of a firearm in most public places. Earlier this year, the Idaho legislature passed a law which cleared the way for concealed carry on state college and university campuses. This victory for gun rights advocates came despite unified opposition from all of the state’s university presidents.
This tragedy can be seen in the context of recent accidental fatalities involving children and guns. Hayden is located within 40 miles of neighboring Washington state where, this past November, three-year-old Michael Holzworth was shot point-blank in the mouth by a four-year-old neighbor. Michael’s father was in the other room when the four-year-old boy got a hold of the gun and the shot was fired. Miraculously, Michael lived and there was no brain damage.
Then, in April, a Philadelphia home was the scene of an 11-year-old year old girls’ death at the hands of her two-year-old brother. It is believed the two-year-old and his sister were playing with the gun while their mother was in the bathroom. It is alleged that their mother’s boyfriend had brought the firearm into the house.