Favorite

The cult of gun-toting 

That Idaho mother shot to death by her 2 year-old son in a Walmart store? Judging by Veronica Jean Rutledge's biography, you can be just about certain that she'd driven to the store wearing a seat belt, with her little boy buckled carefully into his car seat.

By all accounts, Rutledge, age 29, was that kind of mother: loving, diligent and careful — an entirely admirable young woman. In the aftermath of the tragedy, photos of her shining face are almost unbearable to contemplate.

A high school valedictorian, Rutledge graduated from the University of Idaho with a degree in chemistry. She was a promising research scientist at Batelle's Idaho National Laboratory, working on reducing the toxicity of nuclear waste.

It would appear to follow that her child's home environment was carefully child-proofed, with household poisons stored safely away and dangerous objects placed out of reach. Rutledge probably would never have dreamed of letting her son play outside unsupervised, nor left him alone in the bathtub.

And yet she carried a loaded semi-automatic handgun in her purse on a post-Christmas shopping trip and left it unattended in a shopping cart, where the child took it out and somehow pulled the trigger.

Rutledge died instantly there in the electronics aisle.

Very likely her son is too young to understand or remember what happened, although it will shadow his life forever.

In the immediate aftermath, Terry Rutledge, Veronica's father-in-law, gave an ill-advised interview to a Washington Post reporter expressing anger that anybody would use the tragedy "as an excuse to grandstand on gun rights," as the article put it.

"They are painting Veronica as irresponsible, and that is not the case," he said. "... I brought my son up around guns, and he has extensive experience shooting it. And Veronica had had handgun classes; they're both licensed to carry, and this wasn't just some purse she had thrown her gun into."

Oh no, it was a designer item produced by an Illinois firm called Gun Tote'n Mamas with a zipped compartment for carrying a concealed handgun — given to her as a Christmas present from her husband.

Nevertheless, Rutledge made an incomprehensible blunder, and it cost her life. The blunder, as I see it, of carrying a loaded handgun — with a chambered round, no less — as a kind of fashion accessory, a totemic item signifying her cultural identity.

Her close friend Sheri Sandow explained that for all her academic accomplishments, Rutledge was "as comfortable at a campground or a gun range as she was in a classroom."

OK, fine, but why Walmart? Not because she was fearful, Sandow explained.

"In Idaho, we don't have to worry about a lot of crime and things like that," she said. "And to see someone with a gun isn't bizarre. [Veronica] wasn't carrying a gun because she felt unsafe. She was carrying a gun because she was raised around guns. This was just a horrible accident."

Indeed, she needn't have felt unsafe. The most recent homicide in Blackfoot, Idaho, where the family lived, was six years ago.

The scientist in Veronica Rutledge, had she allowed herself to think about it rationally, would have understood that the pistol in her purse was far more dangerous to her and her child than any external threat. As an NRA adept and a big fan of the guns.com website, however, she evidently became so habituated to carrying a gun around that she quite forgot she had it.

By itself, there's nothing inherently objectionable about target shooting, a harmless pastime like bowling or golf. I own a target pistol myself, and take it out sometimes to plink aluminum cans. I also own shotguns, although I no longer hunt.

But when a hobby verges upon obsession, you're talking about cultlike behavior. Spend a few minutes browsing around Guns.com and maybe you'll see what I mean. Current features include Kid Rock's gun collection, and the effects of shooting a giant Gummi Bear with a 12-gauge.

Cool!

In a recent New Yorker article Adam Gopnik explains the political psychology of guns. The great majority of Americans agree that there should be sensible limitations on the possession and use of tools whose function is killing, "while a small minority feels, with a fanatic passion, that there shouldn't. In a process familiar to any student of society, the majority of people in favor of gun sanity care about a lot of other things, too, and think about them far more often; the gun crazy think about guns all the time, and vote on the issue with fanatic intensity."

Hence handguns as costume jewelry, totems signifying one's membership in the NRA tribe. Terry Rutledge, however, can rest easy. If the 2012 Newtown, Conn., massacre failed to bring reform, his daughter-in-law's death won't change anything significant.

Except possibly the behavior of anybody tempted to pack heat around little children.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments (36)

Showing 1-25 of 36

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-25 of 36

Add a comment

More by Gene Lyons

  • On Charlottesville

    Watching the Charlottesville spectacle from halfway across the country, I confess that my first instinct was to raillery. Vanilla ISIS, somebody called this mob of would-be Nazis. A parade of love-deprived nerds marching bravely out of their parents' basements carrying tiki torches from Home Depot.
    • Aug 17, 2017
  • Bad reality show

    As reality TV programs go, the Trump administration is a badly scripted muddle. How much longer will loyal viewers stick around?
    • Aug 10, 2017
  • Putin's missteps

    A good title for the entire Trump-Putin saga might be "The Naive and Sentimental Dictator." Assuming, that is, that it all plays out as farce — certainly the direction events are trending in the White House.
    • Aug 3, 2017
  • More »

People who saved…

Readers also liked…

  • Not again

    This just in: Nothing boosts circulation or enhances ratings like a sex scandal.
    • Jan 14, 2016
  • Never wrong

    Quite a few people make noises about leaving the country if the wrong person gets elected president. I've been making discreet inquiries in the vicinity of Kinsale, County Cork, myself — from whence my people emigrated after 1880.
    • Apr 21, 2016
  • Hillary hit jobs

    It's always been my conviction that if Hillary Clinton could be appointed president, she'd do a bang-up job. Getting elected, however, might prove more difficult.
    • Jul 28, 2016

Latest in Gene Lyons

  • On Charlottesville

    Watching the Charlottesville spectacle from halfway across the country, I confess that my first instinct was to raillery. Vanilla ISIS, somebody called this mob of would-be Nazis. A parade of love-deprived nerds marching bravely out of their parents' basements carrying tiki torches from Home Depot.
    • Aug 17, 2017
  • Bad reality show

    As reality TV programs go, the Trump administration is a badly scripted muddle. How much longer will loyal viewers stick around?
    • Aug 10, 2017
  • Putin's missteps

    A good title for the entire Trump-Putin saga might be "The Naive and Sentimental Dictator." Assuming, that is, that it all plays out as farce — certainly the direction events are trending in the White House.
    • Aug 3, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

August

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Charter secret

    These are hard times for those who believe in traditional public schools, run by democratically elected representatives, open to all on equal terms.
  • On Charlottesville

    Watching the Charlottesville spectacle from halfway across the country, I confess that my first instinct was to raillery. Vanilla ISIS, somebody called this mob of would-be Nazis. A parade of love-deprived nerds marching bravely out of their parents' basements carrying tiki torches from Home Depot.
  • Home is where the hatred is

    According to the Southern Poverty Law Center's "Hate Map," a chapter of the Christian American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is headquartered in Hoxie, a small town in Lawrence County that also holds the distinction of being the first battleground of the segregationists in the fight to integrate Arkansas schools.
  • Klan's president

    Everything that Donald Trump does — make that everything that he says — is calculated to thrill his lustiest disciples. But he is discovering that what was brilliant for a politician is a miscalculation for a president, because it deepens the chasm between him and most Americans.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Charter secret

    • The problem with your logic is that it only focuses on benefitting poor kids by…

    • on August 17, 2017
  • Re: On Charlottesville

    • Others will find fault of course but, IMO, the above piece is one of the…

    • on August 16, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation