A two-year-old boy managed to find a gun in his mother's purse at an Idaho Wal-Mart, accidentally shooting her in the head on Tuesday.
The mother, identified as 29-year-old Veronica Rutledge, went on a shopping trip with her husband and her young son at a nearby Wal-Mart in Hayden, Idaho. According to the Washington Post, she carried the gun in a purse with a special pocket for a concealed weapon, a Christmas gift from her husband.
"An inquisitive 2-year-old boy reached into the purse, unzipped the compartment, found the gun and shot his mother in the head," Terry Rutledge, her father-in-law, said. "It's a terrible, terrible incident."
"My son is terrible," Rutledge said. "He has a 2-year-old boy right now who doesn't know where his mom is and he'll have to explain why his mom isn't coming home. And then, later on his life, as he questions it more, he'll again have to explain what happened, so we'll have to relive this several times over."
According to the Associated Press, the boy opened the special gun compartment in his mother's purse where the weapon was kept while she was looking at clothing. Her father-in-law noted that Victoria had a concealed weapons permit and guns played a big role in their lives.
"She was not the least bit irresponsible," Rutledge said in a brief interview to the Associated Press.
In response to the critics, Rutledge elaborated to the Washington Post on how the family used guns.
"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 hand gun classes; they're both licensed to carry, and this wasn't just some purse she had thrown her gun into."
Based on research from the Washington Post, Veronica graduated in 2010 from the University of Idaho with a chemistry degree. She later obtained a job at the Idaho National Laboratory and published several articles, including one "which analyzed a method to absorb toxic waste discharged by burning nuclear fuel."
"We're deeply saddened by this tragedy," said Nicole Stricker, a spokeswoman for the Idaho National Laboratory.
Despite the tragedy, Rutledge seemed unashamed about the role guns played in their lives. According to the Washington Post, Veronica's Facebook profile indicated that she showed an interest in the outdoors and the National Rifle Association.
"They carried one every day of their lives, and they shot extensively," Rutledge said. "They loved it. Odd as it may sound, we are gun people."
Other people in Idaho share Rutledge's attitude on guns. The Associated Press reported that about 7 percent of adults in that state had concealed weapons permits at the end of 2012, according to the Crime Prevention Research Center in Swarthmore, Pa., ranking Idaho among the top third of states.