Idaho Women Killed At Wal-Mart After Her 2-Year-Old Son Pulls Gun From Her Purse And Shoots Her

veronica-jean-rutledgeAn Idaho nuclear research scientist, Veronica Rutledge, was killed Tuesday in a horrific accident where her 2-year-old son pulled a loaded handgun from her purse and shot her at a Wal-Mart. The gun was in the Christmas gift that Rutledge had received from her husband: a purse with a special pocket for a concealed weapon.

Rutledge, 29, worked at the Idaho National Laboratory and (like her husband) was a gun aficionado.

The loss in Idaho for this family is truly horrific. I do not believe (as some have suggested) that this tragedy is an indictment of gun ownership or even the expansion of concealed weapons permits. In Idaho, more than 85,000 people — 7 percent of the state population — are licensed to carry concealed weapons.

What I do believe that the tragedy shows is the still rudimentary state of firearm technology. We have previously discussed how the introduction of “smart guns” could eventually lead to product liability claims in cases of accidental discharges, particularly involving children. One of the most disturbing aspect of this accident is the ease with which a round can be discharged by a toddler. It is not clear if the safety was on the weapon, though as an experienced gun owner I assume that Rutledge had the safety on. However, it is not difficult for a child to switch of a safety. Many new guns will still not discharge without being held by the owner due to an activating ring or other recognition factor.

As noted earlier, there is a chance that “dumb” guns will be viewed as defective. At one time, seat belts and air bags were viewed as extravagances. Personalized guns, or smart guns, can use RFID chips or other proximity devices as well as fingerprint recognition or magnetic rings. Magnetic ring guns are already available. There are even new designs that would allow biometric sensors in the grip and trigger known as (DGR) Dynamic Grip Recognition, which the New Jersey Institute of Technology says can distinguish an owner with 90% accuracy.

Under the two basic tests for product defects such new designs can change the legal equation. Under the Second Restatement test of 402A, product design is defective is it is more dangerous than the expectations of the ordinary consumer. New technology can shape such expectations as smart guns become more prevalent. Under the Third Restatement, “a product is defective in design when the foreseeable risks of harm posed by the product could have been reduced or avoided by the adoption of a reasonable alternative design … and the omission of the alternative design renders the product not reasonably safe.” This could be claimed as such an alternative design if the costs come down and there is no real alteration in functionality.

While the public safety benefits are obvious, the NRA has generally opposed these guns as having the potential for gun control options in future legislation. In all honesty, it could. While the Supreme Court has recognized that individuals have Second Amendment rights to bear arms, it did not rule out reasonable limitations. Mandatory safety designs would likely pass muster in some cases. Torts and technology have long had a unique relationship in the law. This is one technology that may be coming not only to a store but a courtroom near you.

Rutledge was valedictorian of her high school class and graduated in 2010 from the University of Idaho with a chemistry degree. She published several articles, including one that analyzed a method to absorb toxic waste discharged by burning nuclear fuel.

Source: Washington Post

199 thoughts on “Idaho Women Killed At Wal-Mart After Her 2-Year-Old Son Pulls Gun From Her Purse And Shoots Her”

  1. Aridog,

    This was a preventable accident. You seem unwilling to address that fact. Most likely she was committing a crime, some form of reckless endangerment. A gun free zone, in this instance, would have avoided this accident. The rest of your response is diversionary-does not address the underlying problem of preventable accidents.

    There are security personnel that have a better chance of stopping an armed nut than a woman with a zippered gun in a purse and three children to protect.

    Billy Bob

  2. Billy Bob said …

    Not a big deal if no one can have a gun in the store.

    You mean no one can legally have a gun in the store. Here a store can require this abstinence, under our state law. However, no one intent on mayhem gives a rat’s tinker dang about what the store’s requirements are, let alone the law….witness the shooting in “gun free” zones. That idea of no can have a gun in a store is a false promise.

    I think you’re just trolling, but for the record, legal gun owners are generally not the law breakers, in fact most of us try very hard to obey laws and obey gun free zones, or we do not go in to them. The victim in this post was innocent of lawbreaking, just careless about how she carried her gun (in a container not always under her control)…otherwise, it was an accident. I don’t carry in to the hospital I frequent, nor in a school if I have occasion to enter one, nor the federal building either. And so on…however, murderers have entered all of those, illegally, but with none-the-less lethal results. A friend and neighbor, a federal police officer, was shot dead in the “gun free” (for any but LEO’s) federal building in 2001..10 days after 9/11 in the midst of intense security…by a lunatic with an illegal gun in a paper bag.

    More of a focus on illegal guns would help more than any false promises that they are not present. You can start with our BATF and their illegal gun scheme. Run “stings” on city streets rather than encouraging gun stores to sell illegally, whilst chasing bad guys in Mexico. I’d feel safer. How about you?

  3. The founders designed a system that would change over time and circumstance through the desires of the voters. This is a democracy.

    Baloney. The Founders designed a Representative Republic. Each individual State elects representatives through a somewhat democratic process and which differs within each state even today. A process, whereby each State’s voters determine who will represent them in Congress.

    However, we are NOT a democracy as a country in that a small majority of one group in a small state has just as much power of representation as a larger majority of another group in a larger state.

    The total numbers for or against throughout the country do not count because EACH State stand on its own.

    For instance:

    California can have 5 million Democrat voters and 100 Republicans
    North Dakota can have 100,000 Democrats and 150,000 Republicans

    In total, there are, 5,100,000 Democrats and only 150,100 Republicans

    BUT. California and North Dakota as STATES are equally represented because each STATE was designed to have equal weight in Congress. The same number of Representatives and Senators

    Geeze……did you NOT learn this in 8th grade???????

    At the founding the States were sovereign states. THIS was the intention of the Founders. and the purpose at the inception of the United States. You might want to refresh yourself on the 10th amendment.

    We have a Representative Republic and NOT a Democracy. The desires of the voters as a whole sum total throughout the US do not count. It is the desires of the voters in each individual and sovereign State of the Union. Otherwise there would be no point in having individual States in the beginning and there would never have been a United States if some state were allowed to trample all over the others merely because of geographic and population circumstances. They would not have joined the Union at all.

    Forget that the States are sovereign and you do that at your peril.

  4. If Walmart required that gun owners leave their guns in their cars, this would not have happened. It would be tricky for awhile, but people would get used to it. Since Walmart and other stores can require a minimum dress code, it can do this. Not a big deal if no one can have a gun in the store.

  5. What a horrific ordeal! Being a smart person (research scientist), perhaps she did not use good judgement in carrying the gun in her purse, with easy access. Not too smart in my opinion!

  6. “The founders designed a system that would change over time and circumstance through the desires of the voters. This is a democracy. The rest is secondary. The 2nd amendment is just that an amendment and it may be amended is the majority so chooses. The American system of justice and government exists at the will of the people, not some special interest group,”

    The form of government is a republic; government being the institution created by the people and the representatives they elect to bring it to life. Democracy is the method the people communicate their will to those representatives.

    The entire form and function of government; the very purpose of the institution is to secure the unalienable rights of its citizens. While it is true that a certain majority has the power to amend the constitution, believing this power extends to infringing those rights protected by the Bill of Rights is the furthest thing from the truth. Using your logic, a majority could demand no free speech for white people or no guns for private citizens or no right to a trial for women. Your definition is for a banana republic and while we might currently look like one, that is not its original intent.

  7. As for those who are concerned of the issues of mass shootings (i.e. everyone), a person bent on committing a rampage of capital offense murders in some public place is not going to be deterred in the slightest by a misdemeanor “gun free zone” law.

    That creates a false sense of security.

    There has to be a balance for a citizen’s civil right to possess firearms and a state’s purview of protection of the public.

    To say that a person should be prohibited from carrying a lawfully concealed firearm say on a public sidewalk or park where the state cannot argue a compelling interest in a general restriction of citizens is suppresses the citizens’ civil rights.

    However, the state can articulate a compelling interest in prohibiting firearms possession of the public in a specific situation such as a business that serves alcoholic beverages on premises. There is long established precedent for doing so. In fact during the 19’th century in the Western United States it was commonplace for the localities and the bar management to prohibit firearms because, frankly drunks are likely to shoot each other as they are likely to engage in fighting. Therefore, the state can argue an interest.

    Since District of Columbia v. Heller, and with regard to various state constitutions, the possession of firearms is an individual right so now the state is going to have to argue a compelling interest in restricting firearms possession in various venues.

  8. DBQ

    The founders designed a system that would change over time and circumstance through the desires of the voters. This is a democracy. The rest is secondary. The 2nd amendment is just that an amendment and it may be amended is the majority so chooses. The American system of justice and government exists at the will of the people, not some special interest group, like the NRA.

    The guts or works of the American machine of governing is democracy.

    The way you represent yourself, you could be making arguments against the abolition of slavery at that time. At that time your arguments would be defensible only insofar as you interpreted the statements of the founding fathers.

  9. DBQ,
    Very good post! I want a repeal of the 17th amendment. We won’t rid government of corruptible politicians but we can make it far more difficult for the lobbyists to target them. Put the power back into the hands of the state legislators who have the interest of the state as a priority and where the citizens are nearer their elected representatives.

  10. I know the family of many of the dead @ mass shootings in “Gun Free Zones” LOL, they were really gun free, wish a sane citizen, w/ a gun, was there to stop these cowardly killers who stalk where they know there will be no armed resistance.

  11. the primary focus of attention of all Americans should be on restoring the democracy envisioned by the founders. We have the least democratic system in the Western world.

    Nope. NEVER. We are not a democracy and a democracy was NOT envisioned by the Founders. They were opposed to democracy.

    John Adams said, “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”


    When our Constitution was adopted the people of our country, against tremendous odds, had just fought and won the revolutionary war against Britain, and had a real sense of freedom and individual responsibility. They also feared the centralized government that a democracy could bring about, and by which their individual freedoms, which they had just gained by blood and sacrifice, could be lost. In Federalist Paper #10, James Madison gave a comprehensive dissertation on how a Republic would guard against such losses of freedom, in an effort to get our proposed Constitution ratified by the people and their states.

    “When a majority is included in the faction, the form of popular government … enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens. …

    … Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security and the rights of property, and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. …

    A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking.

    We are a Representative Republic…..not a democracy….thank God.

    The other issue that Gun Control advocates ignore is the issue of State’s Rights. The Founders were quite clear that the powers NOT specifically enumerated to the Federal Government, which are very few, are then given to the States. This means that each State can choose to enact laws specific to their own needs. As long as those laws do not violate the Constitution, they can be very different from one State to the next. Gun Control freaks want to have a national one size fits all law. Just like Obamacare is one program for everyone. These top down one size types of programs are doomed to fail AND they violate State’s rights.

    If you don’t like the laws in your State, you are free to move to another State in the Union where you are more comfortable. THIS was also a vision of the Founders. Each State being an entity unto itself, but still part of the greater Union.

  12. If you aren’t willing to consider the difficult parts of enacting a social policy it’s better to admit that you don’t know what, if anything should be done.

    No one wants mentally ill people mowing down innocents. No one wants kids accidentally killing their mothers. But the horror of those types of incidents doesn’t give license to hand-wave the many serious issues created under the, “We have to do *something*,” umbrella. No, we don’t have to do *something*. We need to do the right and productive thing. The horrible laws produced by 9/11 because we had to do something are instructive.

  13. Jason

    Back from a beach run, much calmer now. My point, and I will be short and explicit hoping to avoid being ‘bushwhacked’ for a third time, is the fear of one extreme should not create the other. I look for complete coverage of regulation, training, and gun ownership transfers. This, in no way impairs the 2nd amendment.

    Once a common goal is accepted, it is then up to the people to work out the details. Where we stand now is at an impasse which has seen the NRA muster votes and funding to persuade and threaten politicians to take an extreme do nothing approach.

    If you feel that all is fine then there is nothing to discuss.

    If you feel that there is too much regulation then read the papers.

    That is my position and after spending far too much time on this blog and subject it is my opinion that the position of the gun owning advocate is too deeply entrenched for me to deal with. That is why we have an elected government albeit that in this country it has grown to such a degree of compromise by oligarchs and special interest group as to be blasphemous. Regardless of one’s position on issues such as gun ownership, health care, or whatever, the primary focus of attention of all Americans should be on restoring the democracy envisioned by the founders. We have the least democratic system in the Western world. Imagine, two choices, one more than a dictatorship and on top of that, any billion dollar special interest group can dominate the process at any time. The NRA’s activities as a member of this group of unholy perversions of true democracy is my main objection.

    Anyway, I have to make dinner, mussels, scampi, pasta, all originating from a lobster stock. Do the mussels in a combination of V-8 juice, lobster stock, and tarragon. Pan fry the scampi in garlic butter. Boil the pasta in lobster stock and olive oil. Toss all this together into one big bowl and throw in some thinly sliced Portobello mushrooms yellow and orange pepper and tomato also pan fried but in olive oil and Italian herbs. If you can find sweet snap peas, fry them lightly and add. Grate Parmesan cheese to taste, but not too much.

  14. isaac:
    “The difference between how to implement checks and balances and not implementing them at all because they appear difficult upon which to come to agreement, is the work of a free society. Not implementing them is the result of a negligent society or the power of special interest. The obligation of a free society is to safeguard that freedom by resisting extremes. The extremes of one argument provide the fuel for its polar opposite.”

    Perhaps I’m not understanding you, but to me this says, “I’m willing to propose fairly specific gun control but I am not going to deal with the many problems implementing them. And if you don’t like my proposals, you are an extremist.”

    “I tend to lean towards the theory of rationalism and realism, or the middle ground.”

    Yes, but you are defining rational. That which disagrees with isaac must not be rational. As I pointed out before, gun control people frequently make policy based on out and out falsehoods. So what sounds rational actually isn’t much of the time.

    “The fine tuning regarding ‘packing a side arm’ whether it is concealed or worn exposed on the hip is a grey area that will not be able to bear rational fruit until the problem is reduced.”

    It’s not a problem and we don’t have to guess about it. More than one in 30 Americans has a concealed carry permit or license. In state after state, the laws have been passed with dire warnings of non-stop shootouts all over the place and in state after state, no statistically significant change has occurred. It’s interesting that no state that has instituted concealed carry has turned around and repealed it, and in virtually every state, the laws have been loosened over time, to no negative effect. Also, if you are going to be rational about the issue, you have to balance the benefits against the costs. The Idaho story is horrifying, I literally get sick to my stomach the more I think about it, but I also get sick thinking about the many people whose lives have likely been saved losing their right to self defense.

    “If, on one day, a nut case mows down people at a Starbucks, it is arguable to allow Tex and Truck in with Glocks strapped to their hips the next when they come in for their morning Frappa, Zappa, Wappachinos. However, personally, I would feel better”

    Your feelings shouldn’t be part of rational policy.

    “taking my chances with only the rarest and most necessary of citizens carrying concealed weapons, something like it used to be, private investigators, security personal, etc., not any potential idiot, like the mother of the poor child in the Walmart.”

    Thankfully, the trend is in one direction. We are now down to just a handful of irrationally stubborn states who continue to ignore the many years of experience in most of the country.

    “It is my hope that someday, if some one is carrying a concealed weapon he or she is authorized by their job to carry one, authorized as they used to be, and not just because their interpretation of highly ambiguous words written 238 years ago in a different world, happens to hold sway.”

    Pro gun people are often asked what we would say to the parents or family of a victim of gun violence. I’d like to ask you, what you would say to the many people who have successfully defended themselves and others? It happens all the time, far more frequently than stories like in Idaho.

    “Determining the psychological condition of a prospective gun owner is also a point where fine tuning will always have to be brought to bear.”

    Again, I’ll ask. Would psychiatrists/psychologists be required to turn in the names of all their patients? Perhaps pharmacies would report any prescriptions for SSRIs to the government. I know you don’t want to deal with details like these, but we already ban gun ownership by people who have been adjudicated mentally ill by a court. Those are the types of issues that have to be dealt with if you want to widen your mental illness net.

    “However, education and this screening could over lap. If, in order to own guns one had to confront the not always obvious reality of someone other than that person getting their hands on them, it is more likely deaths would be reduced than not or increased.”

    I’m sorry, I don’t get this. Is this a call for safety training? Because most states, including Idaho, already do it. Are you saying that everyone should be required to sit for a designated period of time contemplating the possible results of someone getting their gun? I have no idea what you are proposing. As I said earlier, you can give people all the training in the world, but if they ignore it, it won’t matter. You can’t cure stupid.

    “This is the rational thought I spoke of. Of course you can’t prove it, but it makes more sense than not doing it just because there is no proof.”

    No, it doesn’t. If you are going to restrict people’s rights, you better damn well have some idea of the effects, negative and positive.

    ““well regulated” gun ownership obviously means different things to different people.”

    I’m not talking about what it means to “different people”. I’m talking about what it means in the context of the 2A. We know exactly what it means, and every time someone says, “The 2A is about a WELL REGULATED militia,” as proof for more restrictions and laws, they are basing their argument on a meaning of the word that was not the meaning the writers had in mind. If you want more restrictions on guns, that’s fine, but don’t quote “well regulated” as proof that the 2A or the founders supported the idea.

    “To me it means an attempt to filter out the dangers.”

    …and we can do this by….

    “I find it hard to accept that something rational”

    As defined by you, and that may or may not in fact be rational…

    “is not worth doing just because it is impossible to prove, not that it hasn’t been proved, but that it is impossible to prove. Unless of course you do look at all the statistics of all comparable countries, over a reasonable length of time. Then there is plenty of proof that reasonable or well regulated gun ownership does reduce the carnage.”

    And you just made my point. You think it is rational to boil the difference in crime rates between our country and others down to gun laws. This ignores differences in social safety nets, education levels, cultural attitudes, income disparity, and many others. That’s confusing correlation with causation, and that’s not rational.

    As an aside, are you aware that if we removed every gun murder from the books our violent crime rate would still be substantially higher than the U.K.’s? So it’s rather obvious that *something* is at play other than or in addition to gun laws. And over the last two decades, gun deaths and overall crime have plummeted in the U.S. while gun sales have exploded, and concealed carry has become the norm in most of the country. I hasten to add that that is just a correlation, it doesn’t show (and I don’t believe) that more guns and more concealed carry reduced crime. It does make weaker the very simple idea that more guns and more people with guns must lead to more mayhem.

  15. DBQ…you are correct, in my experience anyway. I can insure my firearms and our dogs from theft, but neither for liability.

    Same for our horses back in those days, and even then the insurance for loss of a horse was very expensive, with requirements that were expensive in their own right to accomplish…like transporting a dead or dying animal to an appointed university veterinary facility….to verify the cause of the loss. These rules were devised, by insurers, because of the prevalence of fraud in the killing of high priced horses to recover their cost for various reasons, none humane. In short, sometimes people are their own worst enemy in insurance matters…a few screw ups can raise the cost to everyone else. And they do.

  16. The police are calling this a terrible accident. Child was seated in the cart, unfortunately, so was her purse. She had other children with her.

    A lesson for new gun owners.

  17. Remember, people who write headlines are not the writer of the story. Headlines are written to grab attention.

    I’m staying with the story until we get more info. This headline makes it sound intentional. Agenda-driven people should not write headlines. I hope the child never sees this.

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