Mom's Fatal Shooting by Toddler Was 'Perfect Storm'
But don't blame guns for Veronica Rutledge's death at Walmart, father-in-law fumes
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 31, 2014 10:37 AM CST
People stand inside a Walmart in Hayden, Idaho, Dec. 30, 2014. A 2-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his mother after he reached into her purse and her concealed gun fired, authorities say.   (AP Photo/Coeur d'Alene Press, Tess Freeman)

(Newser) – Terry Rutledge, father-in-law of the 29-year-old Idaho woman accidentally shot to death by her 2-year-old son in Walmart yesterday, is angry—at anyone railing against gun rights. "They are painting Veronica as irresponsible, and that is not the case," he tells the Washington Post. She "was a beautiful, young, loving mother," he adds, per the AP. Veronica Rutledge and her husband also loved guns, often hunting or going to the shooting range; they both had a concealed-carry permit. "They shot extensively," her father-in-law tells the Post. "Odd as it may sound, we are gun people." So are lots of Idahoans: More than 85,000 have active gun permits (about 7% of the population), the Crime Prevention Research Center notes, and a spokesman for the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office tells the New York Times that "it's pretty common around here—a lot of people carry loaded guns."

Veronica Rutledge, an Idaho National Lab employee described by an ex-classmate to the Post as "the smartest person I know" and valedictorian of her high school class, had reportedly taken gun classes and carried around a purse with a discreet zippered compartment to hold a weapon—the same compartment her toddler reached into to pull her gun out. A local gun expert says the shooting was simply a "perfect storm." Robin Ball tells KREM that possible factors include a lack of safety mechanisms, just enough pressure exerted on the trigger (not usually achievable with a child's small fingers), and plain old bad luck—Veronica turned away from the cart just long enough for the child to unzipper the compartment. "Murphy's law just came into play today in so many ways, and there are irreversible consequences for that," she says. (Just last month, another mom was fatally shot by her 3-year-old.)