A shocking story out of Hayden, Idaho made headlines this week: a 2-year-old boy shot and killed his mother in a Wal-Mart on Tuesday. The boy, of course, had no concept of what he was doing or the implications of his actions. He took the handgun out of his mother’s purse in the electronics section, and a moment later, Veronica Rutledge was dead. It’s a tragedy in every sense of the word, but don’t expect this to become a serious rallying point for the anti-gun left. There’s little that legislation could have done to prevent this from happening.
That’s not to say they won’t add their snark to the conversation. Rutledge’s father-in-law has already expressed his disgust for gun-control advocates using the incident to further their cause. “They are painting Veronica as irresponsible,” Terry Rutledge said before elaborating on his family’s “extensive experience” with handguns. But while he can hardly be blamed for defending the mother of his grandchild, it isn’t just anti-gun liberals accusing Veronica Rutledge of negligence.
If this was a preventable tragedy, the victim herself was the one who could have prevented it. It will be a while before all the facts are in, so I’m hesitant to lob too much criticism her way. Indeed, the purse in question was specifically designed to act as a concealed-carry accessory. It was given to her as a Christmas gift only a couple of days earlier.
But responsible gun ownership is about more than how many classes you’ve taken, how much training you’ve had, or how many precautions you take. If you are dead because your toddler shot you with your own gun, you messed up. And while Rutledge has paid the ultimate price for her mistake, she has subjected her family to unimaginable grief as well. Particularly her son, who may never fully come to terms with what happened that sad day.
Even in left-leaning media outlets like The Atlantic, there is a sober admission that “it’s hard to learn any policy lessons from Rutledge’s death.” And that’s why you’re not going to see lawmakers use her story as a launching point for new restrictions.
At the same time, we should remember that this story is all over the news precisely because it “looks bad” for gun-rights activists. There may be no logical argument for increasing gun control stemming from the Wal-Mart shooting, but its mere presence in the zeitgeist acts as its own kind of argument. In December, the mainstream media passed up the following stories, to name but a few:
– In Dallas, former Army medic Aaron Kreag – armed with a .45 – stopped a woman from being beaten by her boyfriend.
– In Dayton, Ohio, a man shot and killed his would-be armed robber when the aggressor – 16-year-old Jawaad Jabbar – wanted to steal his Air Jordan shoes.
– In Charlotte, NC, a 14-year-old young man saved his family from home invaders, killing one and letting police arrest the other.
That’s just from the last couple of weeks. And it doesn’t account for the many incidents where a person might have saved themselves or a loved one had they been armed at the time of their victimization. But these stories don’t make the national news. They don’t inspire lots of ethical hand-wringing. They simply…disappear. Meanwhile, stories that paint guns as a national evil magically find they way into every household in the country.
The story out of Idaho is a sad incident – quite probably a preventable one – but it doesn’t tell the whole story of guns in America. It tells the one the media wants us to hear.