This event weaves three staples of rurality--guns, the inter-mountain West, and Wal-Mart store--into a tragic tale.
The New York Times describes what happened:
A 2-year-old toddler, sitting in a shopping cart in a Walmart, his mother’s purse unattended and within reach as she shopped. Three girls, all under age 11 — relatives of the boy and his mother, the police said — tagging along. … The clothing aisles near electronics, back of the store.
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[S]hortly before 10:20 a.m. on Tuesday, as the store video cameras recorded the scene, the little boy found a gun in his mother’s purse and it discharged once at near point-blank range from where she stood, less than arm’s length away ...
The NYT story by Bill Morlin and Kirk Johnson quotes Lt. Stu Miller, a spokesman for the Kootenai County sheriff’s office, who said he did not know if she had a permit to carry the concealed weapon. (NPR reports that she did have a permit). But he put the practice of carrying a loaded weapon into perspective by noting:
It’s pretty common around here — a lot of people carry loaded guns.
Stefan Chatwin, the city administrator, also commented on the area's "gun culture," noting that the city just last week amended its gun laws to be consistent with Idaho law, making clear that a gun owner is "justified in firing a weapon in defense of persons or property." (See a related story out of Montana here).
NPR quoted the victim's father-in-law, Terry Rutledge, who called her "a beautiful, young, loving mother." He added:
She was not the least bit irresponsible. She was taken much too soon.
Another person interviewed for the New York Times story, self-employed artist and Kootenai County resident Judy Minter, was slightly more judgmental of the victim--judgmental about her parenting, not her gun ownership:
There’s a lot of people who do carry guns in this area. But for her to have it within reach of her child — that was not very smart.Hayden is in the state's scenic panhandle, just 40 minutes from Spokane and near Coeur d'Alene, along I-95. Ms. Rutledge's family lived in Blackfoot, Idaho, population 11, 854, the state's potato capital, in the southeast corner of the state.
Another story about a child killing a relative with a loaded gun kept in easy reach is here.