PSA: Use Holsters, Not Purses

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Tragically, 29-year-old mother Veronica Rutledge was shopping in an Idaho Walmart with her toddler and a trio of older nieces when the toddler reached into her purse, pulled out her gun, and fatally shot her. According to police Rutledge did have a concealed carry permit. She was visiting relatives for the holiday season and had taken the kids shopping when the tragedy occurred.

Rutledge’s toddler son was just 2 years old. Two. Yes, her death is terrible and I am heartbroken for the trauma those children went through and the horrors they will continue to relive for years to come, but one fact remains: this could have been prevented.

Women, do not carry your gun in your purse. Your purse is not a holster.

There are concealed carry purses available that have a compartment specifically made for the gun, and within those compartments there are typically holsters of a sort. The compartments usually have a locking mechanism of some sort, too, but the women I know who use these purses never lock them because it would slow them down should they ever need to draw their gun. A concealed carry purse should be treated as what it is: a big holster, meaning it should never leave your body. You should always be carrying it, and even then there’s enough room for theft and error to make me nervous.

As a woman I will readily admit there are times when it’s difficult to conceal a gun, especially when the weather warms up and you want to wear a cute tank top and shorts. And then there are those dressy night outs when you look fabulous – and have no place for a gun. As time has passed I have absolutely taken to dressing for my gun. Baggy shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, jeans that fit properly with an IWB holster, it’s all part and parcel of being serious about concealed carry. On-body carry is absolutely, positively, without a doubt the best way to carry a gun. Is there ever a time you should drop your gun in your purse? I’ll make this easy: no.

Your purse is not a holster. Women, we all have the habit of setting our purses in, say, a shopping cart, or behind our chair at a restaurant – or even on one of those table-edge purse hooks – or numerous other spots where pretty much anyone can steal it or otherwise access it. You might think accidents could not possibly happen to you, but they most certainly can.

There’s no word on what kind of gun Rutledge was toting in her purse. Since it’s unlikely a two-year-old boy maneuvered a safety – although not impossible – odds are good it was a gun like one of my favorite Glocks that has no manual safety, or maybe she’d taken the safety off. Either way, she had a live round chambered. That gun was hot, and it was in her purse, in a shopping cart, next to a curious toddler.

This is a horrific tragedy. My heart goes out to her family. This should, however, serve as a reminder to all the women out there – some who I know personally – who think their purse is an okay receptacle for their gun. It’s not. End of story.

You can see the news story here: http://news.yahoo.com/police-boy-2-accidentally-kills-mom-wal-mart-201635957.html



katie.ainsworth

Katie is an avid shooter, hunter, military journalist, and Southern girl. Firearms are her passion whether at the range or on a spot-and-stalk after a big buck. She’s a staff writer at The Firearm Blog and writes about guns, hunting, and the military for various publications both online and in print such as Outdoor Life, Handguns, and Shooting Illustrated. Shoot her a message at ainsworth.kat@usa.com


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  • lucusloc

    The worst tragedies are the kinds that can be prevented with a little education, weather it is in operating a vehicles, using power tools or carrying a firearm.

    My prayers and condolences to the family, and a sincere hope that others learn from this.

  • MountainKelly

    Always have to be vigilant with carry. It’s like driving a car. Inherently dangerous unfortunately people get careless with both and this is the result

  • 3XLwolfshirt

    It doesn’t make any sense to carry in your purse, as that will be the first thing muggers will go after. Why would you keep your gun where you’re most vulnerable?

  • echelon

    This is sad and tragic, yes, but it’s the reality of life. Is off body ideal? No. Is it better than not carrying at all? Yes.

    She should’ve obviously taken the kid into consideration, it was indeed bad judgement. Toddlers just don’t understand.

    I just wish we didn’t have all of this concealed carry nonsense. She should’ve just had the piece on her hip in a holster and been done with it. There is nothing wrong with a man or a woman dressing up nicely and also carrying a piece, openly or discretely. But since concealment is basically forced at this point people are driven to less than ideal solutions such as this.

  • dan citizen

    This sucks so much. Would it be worse if a child was killed? Or a stranger? The outcome is so crappy, but I guess it could have been worse. My only hope is that others will choose a better carry method, possibly preventing some similar tragedies.

    My first wife lost a small gun once. couldn’t find it for a week. after her searching her huge purse several times, we dumped it out and finally found the gun…. She switched to a holster.

  • GrayDuck

    I don’t think any of us disagree that this was a horrible tragedy that will have long lasting effects on the family, especially the children, for their entire lives. Look at how many thefts occur from purses left in shopping carts, even with the owner right next to it (either unaware or intentionally distracted by an accomplice). That should be enough reason to not carry in a purse or bag that you intend to remove from your body for even a second. This applies not just to women, but to men as well who may be carrying off body in a “murse”, backpack, tactical sling bag, whatever. While I don’t know the details, I am almost willing to bet that this firearm wasn’t in a proper holster in the purse, and the compartment that the gun was placed in the purse was probably already open so that the toddler (or anyone else for that matter) could reach in and easily access the weapon. My wife has thankfully changed exclusively to on body concealed carry – with the number of options available to women these days, no matter what you’re wearing, there is some safe way to carry your firearm on your person, concealed, but easily accessible. My prayers to the family during this time of grief. Stay safe.

  • 2wheels

    This is perhaps the worst case scenario that could have happened to someone who obviously didn’t take carrying a concealed firearm seriously.

    She probably got her permit, got her gun, tossed it in her purse, and proceeded to go on about her life without thinking twice about the unsecured firearm in her purse.

    Hopefully anyone out there who just tosses their concealed handgun into a purse or other type of bag will think twice about their chosen method of carry… Simply having a gun around you doesn’t make you safe!

  • Jeremy Star

    The article I read about this states it was a conceal carry purse given to her by her husband for Christmas. Her mistake was putting it in the cart with her son. For some reason some people believe that young children won’t be able to fire a handgun if it has a safety or a double action pull. Those people probably don’t have any experience with children.

    • Katie A

      Do you have a link to it? I read a good eight or so news alerts and didn’t see that. It’d be an interesting addition to what happened. Problem is, women automatically set their purse in a shopping cart without thinking about it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked why I’m not putting mine down (and no, it isn’t because my gun is in it, it’s just a hope to not be robbed).

    • JLR84

      Like most guys I’m not a fan off off-body carry, but it’s easy to say that without the challenges that women face in carrying a gun. So I’m sympathetic to the argument that purse-carry might be the best choice for some women, and in this case she did have an appropriate purse for the purpose.

      While the article describes her as an experienced shooter, it also says that she had received the concealed-carry purse and the carry gun only days earlier for Christmas. Spending time at the range for your spouse isn’t the same thing as being an experienced carrier, so she probably didn’t approach carry with the vigilance that is required.

      The real problem is that she left the bag unattended in the shopping cart with her child. If you’re going to carry off-body in a purse, you have to be committed to keeping the purse on your body at all times. Preferable in cross-body carry fashion, as opposed to dangled off a single shoulder, to maximize security and control of the purse.

  • CrankyFool

    Does the age of the child matter, do you think?

    I was raised in a household where as of the age of … 10, I think … I knew where my father’s firearms were, and they were not locked away. My dad showed me the firearms, took me shooting, and told me anytime I wanted to shoot, he’d take me shooting, but asked me not to handle the firearms by myself.

    • dbn

      you have a very important point there. Kids are generally curious; curiosity gets them into trouble. Your father was smart to introduce you to them and offer to take you shooting anytime you wanted. It fed that curiosity constructively, and thats something that parents should do if they have firearms in the household.

  • gunsandrockets

    Holsterless carry can be safe if a semi-auto pistol does not have a round in the chamber. An empty chamber might also prevent children from firing the pistol. Might.

  • Pete Sheppard

    Was the pistol a Glock? 🙁

    • Katie A

      I haven’t found anything saying what it was, just describing it as “small caliber.” A Glock is my daily carry, and I own several of them; I’m a big fan.

      • Pete Sheppard

        Thanks. On reflection, there are other pistols that have a variation of the ‘Safe Action’ lockwork; once the trigger lock is depressed, the take-up and pull is fairly easy for weak fingers to operate. Usually, this is an advantage for good shooting; but under the wrong circumstances, it’s a setting for tragedy.

    • Jake Dorsey

      Northwest Cable News ran a story a couple days ago that said it was a
      third-gen S&W subcompact automatic. Not sure if the safety was on or not.

  • Tassiebush

    I agree with everything said in this article. I feel so sad that this mother who cared about protecting her children and who was clearly loved died like this. She was probably just tired and preoccupied. Parents of young children generally walk through life in a sleep deprived fog. it’s easy to make mistakes when tired and method of carry needs to allow for that.
    I think fairbairn and sykes had the right idea of removing or pinning the safety so it was always in the firing position and carrying the gun with no round chambered for safety. It would probably be far safer than other methods without compromising speed. They largely favoured this approach as it substituted a fine motor skill of slipping off a safety with a gross motor skill of racking the slide. Their experience being that gross motor skills work in high pressure situations whilst fine motor skills often fail. it was also to prevent a safety from being left on when the gun needed to be fired.
    I realize there probably are some very well designed safeties out there as well as double action trigger systems but this seems to be safer, quick and relatively foolproof with the only exception being if the gun doesn’t feed well. (disclaimer: i’m only an armchair expert on this one)

  • Katie A

    That is absolutely true, and I agree. Although it’s unlikely a two-year-old managed a safety – it should take more than a split second, and I hate to think he was fiddling with that gun for long although he may have been – it’s possible. Kids get into things and even operate things that many people would never, ever expect possible. Not to mention a safety should never be relied upon for anyone, big or small. Safeties fail.

    • billyoblivion

      The notion that the two year old “managed” the safety is a flawed way to look at it.

      The two year old wasn’t “managing” anything. Depending on the firearm and how the child pulled the firearm out, it is very likely the safety was disengaged by the act of removing the firearm from the purse (yes, reckless speculation).

      It’s not like the kid (unless he was a genetic freak) reached into the bag, took a good firing grip, drew and fired. He was just doing what kids do.

      I tested my daughter several times over the years, and while she’s a bit on the slender side (and a gurl) she was not able to *deliberately* pull the trigger on a stock Glock 19 until she was 6. This doesn’t mean that she couldn’t have activated the trigger somehow, but that she didn’t really have the finger strength to do it.

      But her mom’s CZ75 is different. MUCH lighter trigger when the hammer is back.

      Unlike most guys I don’t have an issue with Off Body Carry, I think that as Americans we get to make choices and decide for ourselves what risks are worth taking, and with vigilance and care purse, backpack or fannypack carry is safe.

      This woman did not exercise vigilance, and her children and husband are now paying the price. It’s sad, and I feel horrible for them. However accidents like this will *always* happen.

      There are 80 million gun owners in America, and there just *is* going to be a certain “defect rate”. We can work on getting that defect rate down (currently there are something like 570 deaths a year, more or less, from firearms *accidents*. That’s already a pretty low “defect rate”) and learn lessons from each event, but ultimate we have to accept that there is simply no way to get to zero.

  • jayhawk79424

    Yes it’s a tragedy that shouldn’t have happened! There are many facts, I believe, that are not known- type of pistol, did it have a safety, etc? How many pounds is the trigger pull on that pistol, was it modified? Obviously there was a round in the chamber. Can a 2 year old really squeeze the trigger, obviously he did? One might think, this is not the first time he has seen this pistol.

    We can learn from this experience and hopefully prevent another incident like this happening again.

  • USMC03Vet

    Small caliber handgun?
    1 shot kill?

    Not according to the Internet!

    A shame a dumbass lost her life because of being a dumbass but that’s life. Poor kid now has to live with that too.

  • 2wheels

    Plenty of smart people in the world… Doesn’t mean they all make smart decisions.

    I seriously disagree that “any of us” could have made the same series of mistakes she did. She chose a risky method of carry (probably because it was the most convenient for her) and then she placed her purse with a loaded and unsecure firearm next to a small child, and then she turned away long enough for him to access it and shoot her!

    This is a terrible tragedy but you can’t make excuses for her mistakes.

    • Yellow Devil

      It’s not a fine line between Knowledge and Wisdom.