Idaho Shooting: Another Death in the Family

If the Idaho mother shot by her toddler was a responsible gun owner, what went wrong?

Is this a good idea?

Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

"She was not the least bit irresponsible." 

That's what Veronica Rutledge's father-in-law said about her after the 29-year-old Idaho woman was shot dead by her toddler son in the electronics section of Wal-Mart. The boy had reached into his mother's purse, pulled out a small-caliber handgun and ended his mother's life.

When a loaded gun ends up in the hands of a two-year-old, it's natural to assume that someone, somewhere has been tragically, horribly, reckless. But what if Terry Rutledge, the victim's father-in-law, is correct? What if his daughter-in-law, who had a concealed carry permit, was not the least bit irresponsible? What if she died the death of a responsible gun owner?

If so, arguments rationalizing concealed carry just took a serious hit.

After all, the point of concealed carry is generally self-protection. True, if Rutledge had been violently attacked, it's doubtful she would've been able to extract her gun from her purse in time to fend off an attacker. Thankfully, such attacks are rare.

But it's not clear that Rutledge even felt the need to defend herself. The Washington Post spoke to Sheri Sandow, a friend of Rutledge's. “In Idaho, we don’t have to worry about a lot of crime and things like that,” she told the Post. Rutledge, she said, “wasn’t carrying a gun because she felt unsafe. She was carrying a gun because she was raised around guns.”

Strolling around Wal-Mart is the quintessence of routine. Tens of millions of Americans do it without incident. The only difference in this case -- as in other cases of toddlers shooting people -- is the presence of a gun. If Rutledge was a responsible gun owner, and the result was a fatal shooting with a two-year-old finger on the trigger, then perhaps there is something seriously awry with the logic of concealed carry.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.