Today in Hayden Idaho, a 29 year old mother of a two year old toddler was killed today. Our prayers go out to the family suffering from this horrible tragedy. What we can do, as gun-owners, is learn from the incident and protect others in the future from suffering a similarly horrible accident.
Veronica Rutledge left her son in the cart, while doing something in the electronic section of her local Walmart. The little boy reached into the purse and somehow discharged his mother’s firearm, ending his mother’s life. I won’t get into the details because it’s not germane to anything aside from idle curiosity and you can search out the story on any news outlet in the nation.
What can we learn?
The Rutledge family has already learned a hard lesson, and I’m sure the surviving husband will forever wonder if something couldn’t have been done differently to avoid the death of his wife and the mother of his children. Sadly, nothing can bring her back. The rest of us can learn from this horrible accident and how to prevent it from happening to others. We teach this in our courses, as many firearm instructors do, but it’s horrible to have an example such as this to show what can happen.
Concealed carry is a great privilege and a great responsibility and I’m sure Veronica Rutledge would never have put her firearm in such a situation if anyone had ever told her. After all, concealed carry in a purse is a great place to carry it where it’s in range of you when you need it, but safe from view and prying hands, right? Not always.
If you are a lady and you concealed carry, here are a few rules you can adopt if you haven’t already, that can keep you safe from accidents like this.
Carry the right accessories
First and foremost, never purse carry in a standard purse. If you are going to concealed carry with a purse, purchase a purse or handbag designed for concealed carry. These usually have separate pockets with locks or zippers out of view and reach from the main pocket specifically to prevent things like this from happening. This time it was a two-year old. It could just as easily have been a set of car keys that caught the trigger.
Carry the Right TYPE of Firearm
The most important thing, in my opinion, a firearm owner can do, it to carry the right type of firearm. When students ask us in the classroom what type of firearm they should purchase, my first question is always “Do you have kids at home?” If you do, no double-action-only, such as a Glock that has a trigger-safety-only. A Glock has a GREAT safety, as do most striker-fired firearms, but the biggest weakness in the design in my opinion is that ANY finger fully inserted into the trigger guard can set the trigger off. It doesn’t have to be YOUR finger and there are no other external safeties on those kinds of firearms. In all fairness, I have no idea what type of firearm the mother was carrying in her purse but I’m sure it will come out in the news shortly. Having at least ONE external safety in addition to the trigger, preferably two like a 1911 style pistol, is often a favorite for that exact reason. It takes THREE things to fire that firearm and they all have to happen simultaneously.
Stop modifying your firearm triggers.
This is the most worrisome thing I hear from firearm enthusiasts! “I had a trigger job done! It’s only got a two-pound trigger now. Check it out!” That is a HORRIBLE idea for any firearm that isn’t designed for match shooting and that doesn’t spend 99% of it’s life locked into a box. Years back the entire New York Police Department had ALL their firearms returned to the manufacturer. Do you know why? They had 12-pound triggers installed instead of the 4 pound trigger they’d been issued with from the manufacturer. The reason was simple; requiring 12 pounds of trigger pull to discharge the firearm drastically reduces the chance of an involuntary discharge. It worked. New York experienced an immediate drop in the amount of accidental discharges with their officer’s firearms. This became known as the “New York Trigger” in some gun circles and was quickly adopted by many other departments as a standard operating procedure.
Having a light trigger in a self-defense firearm is never a good idea, regardless what your gun-dealer friend or husband tells you. A stronger trigger pull is safer for you, and helps prevent accidents.
Your firearm never leaves your person. Ever.
If you are a lady and you purse carry, your purse never leaves your shoulder. Ever. The same with your jacket, coat, fanny pack, etc. If you’re a man and you’re carrying in your inside-jacket pocket, you can’t take your jacket off at the baseball field, even if it does get up into the 80’s. It can be a cumbersome responsibility but if you are carrying a firearm for defense then you have absolutely zero defense if it’s not on your person every instant of every day. As much as I love concealed carry, that’s half the reason I open carry. It’s in a holster on my belt. If I’m wearing pants, then I’m wearing my firearm or it’s locked in my vehicle because I’m visiting an establishment where carrying is prohibited.
The Rutledge family, and the folks of Hayden, Idaho learned a very hard lesson today. It was a lesson of ignorance, not of stupidity, in my humble opinion, and the only thing we can do as responsible gun owners is to send that family our prayers and to learn from their deadly mistake and insure it doesn’t happen to us or anyone we know.
Addendum: Selecting a Gun if You Have Children at Home
As an addendum to this article, I’m going to include the following advice. Maybe it will help someone else out there avoid an accident.
Revolvers: Carrying a revolver is something many women tend to prefer, especially if they aren’t comfortable with firearms in general, because there are fewer parts to contend with. Here are a few tips for revolvers.
- Carry a single action revolver. It requires you to cock the hammer yourself before the trigger will function. You cock it, then fire it. Conversely a double-action revolver does both steps in one motion.
- If you DO carry a double-action revolver and your kids are around, consider keeping the last cylinder empty. If you have a six-shot revolver, you only load 5 of the cylinders and you close the cylinder in a manner that insures the first hammer pull falls on an empty cylinder. It adds about one-quarter second to your firing time, but MIGHT save your life or that of your child.
- If you carry a striker fired firearm (Smith and Wesson, Glock, etc) don’t carry with one in the chamber if you have children. Like with the revolver example before, it adds a moment to your firing time because you have to rack the slide, but it might prevent your child from discharging the firearm. No two year old is going to rack the slide on your Glock and then pull the trigger. It just doesn’t happen.