Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A melding of rural stereotypes in a tragic tale: toddler shoots mother at an Idaho Wal-Mart

This event weaves three staples of rurality--guns, the inter-mountain West, and Wal-Mart store--into a tragic tale.  

A 2-year-old shot and killed his 29-year-old mother yesterday at a Wal-Mart in Hayden, Idaho, population 13,294.  Read the story on NPR here and in the New York Times here (where it is one of the 10 most emailed stories this morning, no doubt a reflection of the fascination of the "interest public" with a world it cannot begin to understand).

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.
* * * 
[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, Idahopopulation 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.

1 comment:

Dakota Sinclair said...

One thing that seems to get overlooked is that quite often people feel a very real need for self protection. It could be they feel law enforcement cannot aid them in a timely manner or because of valid threats against life and limb. It could also be because in rural areas there is a legitimate concern for the unknown.

One thing of note is that Idaho has a relatively lax procedure for obtaining licenses to carry for self protection. Most people agree that holsters should have trigger guards, to prevent this sort of tragedy. Often it seems that training and involvement in marksmanship programs is needed to get a more involved understanding of safety points. California, as a direct counter point has more stringent rules for obtaining conceal permits which include mandatory classes, even in rural areas. The classes are often prohibitively expensive but seek to ensure that persons carrying weapons are well informed on the risks and how to best minimize them.