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Boy (2) finds his mum's gun in her purse - and accidentally shoots her dead

The concealed gun fired when the child reached into her purse.

Image: Mike Kalasnik via Flickr/Creative Commons

Updated 9.30am, 31 December

A TWO-YEAR-old in a shopping cart at a Walmart store shot and killed his mother with a handgun from her purse yesterday, in the latest US shooting tragedy.

The accident took place at a Walmart store in Hayden, Idaho, where the victim, Veronica Rutledge, was shopping with her children and other family members.

“Her son was seated in the shopping cart and accessed the victim’s concealed weapon from her purse and discharged it, striking the victim,” Kootenai County Sheriff Ben Wolfinger said in a statement.

Once on scene, deputies found a 29-year-old victim was deceased from an apparent gunshot wound.

Idaho, a rugged and largely rural state, is among the US states with the highest percentage of Americans who own guns.

Rutledge, who was spending the holidays in the area, had a concealed weapons permit, the sheriff’s office confirmed, allowing her to legally carry the gun.

Concealed weapon

The Sheriff office’s lieutenant Stu Miller told local television KHQ that in “instances like this, you know I’m a big proponent of a concealed weapon for your own safety. However, you have to be responsible. Unfortunately, in this case, that just wasn’t.”

Walmart said it was “fully cooperating with the Kootenai County Sheriff’s deputies as they investigate this matter.”

KREM television reported that Rutledge was in the store with three other children, which police did not immediately confirm.

Authorities sent psychologists to help employees needing assistance, it added. The store, which was evacuated, will be closed on Wednesday.

300 million guns in the US

Accidental shootings are not uncommon in the United States given the proliferation of guns, but Tuesday’s accident was unusually tragic.

A leading anti-gun lobby group, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, estimates that there are some 300 million guns in the United States — one for almost every individual in the nation.

Much of the research about children and firearms has focused on the nearly 20,000 minors who are killed or injured each year by guns in the United States.

In 2011, 2,703 young people, ages 0-19, were killed by gunfire in the United States.

There is, however, comparatively little information about how many youths are involved in accidental shootings that lead to injury or loss of life.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of US states over the years have adopted laws allowing their residents to obtain concealed carry permits, like the one that allowed Rutledge to take her handgun on her shopping errands.

In December 2011, the US Government Accountability Office estimated that there were about eight million concealed handgun permits, but by June 2014, the number had grown to well over 11.1 million.

Earlier this year, Americans were shaken by another unintended fatal shooting by a child, when a nine-year-old girl learning to fire an Uzi submachine gun at a shooting range accidentally killed her instructor.

- © AFP, 2014

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