(Image from Veronica Rutledge's Facebook profile)
The automatic reaction to the tragic story of the woman shot by her two year old son in Walmart would be to assume extreme stupidity on the part of the mother. If you were unaware of the story, 29 year old Veronica Rutledge was shot dead by her toddler last week after he reached into her purse and took her gun out in a Walmart in Idaho.
But not so fast. As Alternet reports:
Veronica Rutledge was an accomplished nuclear research scientist and a mother. She was also a gun enthusiast, who along with her husband hunted, attended shooting ranges, and owned a concealed carry permit, toting her gun with her at all times.
On Christmas, her husband bought her a new purse that had a pocket for her handgun. The day after Christmas, Rutledge traveled to a local Walmart with her three nieces and her two-year-old son. With her was her purse with the handgun inside.
It seems trigger happy Tea Party enthusiasts aren't the only ones capable of terminating their lives via extreme stupidity - nuclear scientists are too. Of course gun enthusiasts are keen to write this all off as a tragic accident, and are aiming their contempt at anti-gun advocates. Rutledge's father-in-law, himself a gun enthusiast, was interviewed by the Washington Post and apparently isn't happy about those using the accident to 'grandstand' on gun rights:
“They are painting Veronica as irresponsible, and that is not the case,” he said. “… I brought my son up around guns, and he has extensive experience shooting it. And Veronica had had hand gun classes; they’re both licensed to carry, and this wasn’t just some purse she had thrown her gun into.....They carried one every day of their lives, and they shot extensively,” Rutledge said. “They loved it. Odd as it may sound, we are gun people.”
According to the Post's profile of Veronica Rutledge, she was completely obsessed with guns - following Guns.com, the National Rifle Association (NRA). Her close friend Sherry Sandow told the post that:
"In Idaho, we don’t have to worry about a lot of crime and things like that....and to see someone with a gun isn’t bizarre. [Veronica] wasn’t carrying a gun because she felt unsafe. She was carrying a gun because she was raised around guns. This was just a horrible accident.”
Outside of the US, virtually no one understands the pathological obsession with owning and shooting guns. In the UK where I am from, anyone who felt the need to carry a gun to their local store while looking after several very small children would be taken immediately to prison and given a very thorough psychiatric evaluation. This would of course be seen as the Big Bad Nanny State interfering with your God Given Freedom in America, but it is worth bearing in mind that had a sensible legal system been in place that prevented this type of stupidity, Veronica Rutledge would still be alive and her child would not be irreparably traumatized from killing his own mother.
Why did Rutledge take a gun to Walmart with her child and nieces? What exactly was the purpose? To defend herself from hidden assassins in the fruit and veg department? To defeat the terrorists in Walmart before they defeated her at home? While a huge amount of sympathy should go out to the family and those affected by the tragedy, it is difficult to feel too sorry for someone so reckless and stupid that they would leave a purse with a lethal weapon unattended around a two year old. Rutledge literally lived by the gun, and died by it - a fate every weapon wielding American needs to come to terms with. If you carry equipment designed with the sole purpose of killing, there's a good chance it will actually kill someone.
Veronica Rutledge was clearly a brilliant woman with a very bright future. Sadly, she was also an idiot.