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On the Latest Idaho Gun Accident: No One Is Safe

Photograph by Getty Images

When I first heard the story of the mom who was shot accidentally by her 2-year-old son while shopping at a Wal-Mart, aside from the horrific tragedy of the event, two thoughts went through my mind:

Why on earth would anyone have a gun in her purse?


Well, obviously that was a person who didn’t know about proper gun safety.

Except, as it turns out—she was exactly a woman who was not only very intelligent (she was a chemical engineer), but someone who knew a lot about guns.

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According to the late woman’s father, not only was Veronica Rutledge, 29, trained extensively in firearm use and safety, but she carried the legally concealed weapon in a specially designed purse, a purse designed specifically to carry the gun. “…This wasn’t just some purse she had thrown her gun into,” he said in an interview.

The Washington Post reported that the purse had even been a special Christmas present from her husband, since the entire family was passionate about guns. The couple, who frequented shooting ranges and hunted together, bonded over their use of firearms. You can practically imagine the cozy Christmas scene: a husband excited to combine the practical with the pretty, a wife thrilled with her husband’s thoughtfulness.

While guns may surround me, I am not at all comfortable with them.

But on the day after Christmas, when Rutledge decided to take her new purse out for a spin, the present turned deadly. Although even gun experts are baffled as to how on earth a 2-year-old was able to find the specially concealed weapon, unlock any safety mechanisms that presumably a gun enthusiast such as herself would be well aware of, aim it directly at her head, and have enough strength to actually pull the trigger, that’s exactly what happened.

The story is so horrible, and it hits too close to home. We live in a small town much like Rutledge’s, where people are passionate about their right to bear arms. The sight of a holstered gun is as familiar to me as the heavy winter coats that currently cloak them. There’s very much a “don’t mess with me” mentality that goes into gun carrying, and even more frightening than that, it’s also a status symbol, a badge of honor or even just plain “cool”—a disturbing flashback to high school, except these are grown adults wearing fully legal machines on their persons designed to kill something as quickly as possible.

Obviously, with guns, things go wrong. My husband himself is passionate about guns, my brother-in-law is a gun engineer, we’ve had birthday parties for our children where adults casually strolled around with guns affixed to their pants, and while guns may surround me, I am not at all comfortable with them.

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I understand the argument both ways and I know much of the don’t-take-away-my-gun mentality is a small town point of pride, like waving an American flag around or maybe eating Southern grits or something.

But at what point does our pride need get sacrificed—

Or our lives?

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