UPDATE re: Idaho Mother Shot By Toddler

In response to reader emails, I’m writing an update on the case of the Idaho mother who was accidentally shot and killed by her 2-year-old son in Walmart right after Christmas. The details everyone has been wondering about have been released, and in some ways those details only seem to open the case to more questions.

What happened?

The basic outline of the incident was apparently that the child removed the gun from the purse and fired a single shot. That bullet struck Veronica Rutledge in the head, and she was immediately killed. Rutledge was standing just a few feet from her son. The store manager was apparently nearby, reached the site of the shooting quickly, and took the gun away from the toddler. Immediately following the shooting the store was emptied of patrons as law enforcement and other first responders arrived and took over. This is simply a rough outline of events but does answer some reader questions.

What gun was used?

According to the Kootenai sheriff’s department the gun in question was a Smith and Wesson M&P Shield chambered in 9mm. Factory trigger is set at 6.5 pounds. On the somewhat larger M&P, there’s a .300” travel from a rest; that information is not listed for the Shield model on Smith and Wesson’s site. Empty, the gun weighs 19 ounces. It is 0.95” wide. Specs will be listed at the bottom of this article. There has been no word regarding what type of ammunition the gun was loaded with or whether Rutledge owned a model with or without a thumb safety (and if she did, whether or not it was engaged).

What purse was used?

The gun was stored in a pocket in a concealed carry purse that had been a Christmas gift from Rutledge’s husband. The purse was a Gun Tote’n Mamas brand but police did not say which design it was specifically.

Did she have firearms experience?

Although none among us can say with authority what her actual skill level was, Rutledge’s family has said she and her husband spent significant time at the range as well as hunting. All interviews I have read make it seem clear she spent time with her gun; it was not simply dropped in a purse and forgotten.

As mentioned in the original piece, she did have a concealed carry permit. However, it was not an Idaho permit, it was a Washington state CPL. Idaho does have reciprocity with Washington. However, she was a resident of Blackfoot, Idaho, at the time of her death and according to news accounts appears to have been an Idaho resident since high school, if not birth.

Rutledge’s family has made it abundantly clear they do not appreciate the attempts being made to use her death as a call for gun control.


Gun specs:

  • Model: M&P9 Shield™
  • Frame Size: Compact
  • Caliber: 9mm
  • Action: Striker Fire
  • Capacity: 7 and 8 Round Magazines
  • Barrel Length: 3.1” (7.9 cm)
  • Front Sight: White Dot
  • Rear Sight: White 2-Dot
  • Trigger Pull: 6.5 lbs +/-
  • Overall Length: 6.1” (15.5 cm)
  • Frame Width: .95” (2.4 cm)
  • Overall Height: 4.6” (11.7 cm)
  • Grip: Polymer
  • Weight: 19.0 oz. (523.7 g)
  • Barrel Material: Stainless Steel
  • Slide Material: Stainless Steel
  • Frame Material: Polymer
  • Finish: Black/Durable Corrosion Resistant

Related links:

Police statement: http://www.kcsheriff.com/documents/NewDetailsReleasedonHaydenWalmartShooting.pdf

Gun Tote’n Mamas: http://www.guntotenmamas.com/

Smith and Wesson M&P Shield: with safety: http://www.smith-wesson.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product4_750001_750051_809560_-1_780153_757781_757781_ProductDisplayErrorView_Y

without safety: http://www.smith-wesson.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product4_750001_750051_831056_-1_757781_757781_757781_ProductDisplayErrorView_Y

TFB Staffer

TFB Staff, bringing you the latest gun news from around the world for a decade.


  • colin

    Gets more like ttag ever day!

    • Clint P

      I hope not. As a general rule I am a fan of TFB.

      I like some of the writers over at TTAG (Nick and Tyler) but am not a fan of Farago. I would hate to see this site turn into an echo of TTAG.

      • M.M.D.C.

        Unlikely. TTAG has a completely different character from TFB, IMO, and I don’t see how this post resembles anything uniquely characteristic of TTAG. I think the above was just a bit of snark, which is ironic.

      • Not gonna happen!

        • Clint P


          • Katie A

            Definitely not happening on my end either. And thank you M.M.D.C.

    • Menger40

      What do you mean?

  • M.M.D.C.

    So, even if a purse specifically designed for concealed carry is used, extreme vigilance is required for off-body carry.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      To be fair those purses are not only hideous, but there about as “specifically designed” as a plastic bag, it’s just a pouch with a zipper it fits into, NOT a replacment for a holster.

      • bob_h

        Not at all true. Although my wife normally carries IWB, occasionally she carries in a Gun Tote’n Mama purse. There is a separate zippered compartment for the gun which contains a holster held in place with Velcro and a mag pouch also held in place with Velcro. This set up is about as secure as off body carry can be.

        Based on her experience and my observation I’d have to say that the purse either wasn’t being used properly or was left unattended for an extended period so the kid to get into it – maybe both.

        As for your fashion review, while this company does make some over the top ugly stuff the two in our house are plain, simple and professional looking. My guess is that you’re not as knowledgeable about the product as you’d like to pretend.

        • JumpIf NotZero


      • Katie A

        I have to answer two angles of the back-and-forth here. First, I look at CC purses all the time at various stores out of curiosity (I do not own one, I carry IWB)The majority of the purses I’ve seen from many, many manufactures…as in 99%…are, indeed, ugly by my personal tastes. Second, yes, it’s just a pouch with a zipper. Some companies use locking zippers which, of course, the user has to engage – that or they advertise it as a locking zipper when in reality that means you have to put a tiny lock in the little holes in the zippers. Some purses are literally nothing but an extra compartment. Some have loops inside that fit over the barrel of the gun and some come with extremely basic holsters that velcro in place. I have never seen a CC purse with a high-quality retention or locking system. I have not seen all of them, obviously, but I’ve seen quite a few. I believe if you’re going to use a CC purse you must be incredibly vigilant, there’s no such thing as setting it down and wandering off or turning away, it had better stay glued to your shoulder as long as there’s a firearm inside. And you’d better practice with it, just like any holster. It takes extra time to access your purse and draw the gun.

        Here’s my bottom line: I agree with JumpIfNotZero. CC purses are not replacements for holsters, they are zippered pouches that may or may not include a soft loop or velcroed low-retention (often soft) holster. I say this having examined more of those than I care to count. As a woman and firearms owner I see no reason for women not to on-body carry. It’s better for myriad reasons, while not always ideal; I have adjusted my wardrobe accordingly. I’d rather be alive than dead wearing a super-cute fitted top that I couldn’t IWB carry with.

        • JumpIf NotZero

          Katie, Thanks for updating!

          For my girlfriend, we’ve found that she basically has one or two pair of jeans/pants that would work with IWB. Seeing as I often don’t even on body carry in my town with out habits (gun in vehicle always, carry occasionally) and her level of training, I don’t expect her to modify her wardrobe. She is coming around but it’s just not a priority for her right now.

          On the other hand, she would go with one of those purses about never based on looks alone of the ones we’ve seen. But carrying offbody does have some features because on my state, in a bag, means “not concealed”, so quite handy.

        • gunsandrockets

          Sounds like there remains good opportunity for a clever entrepreneur to produce a quality product to satisfy the demand for a good CCW purse.

        • AR-PRO

          While my wife would agree that there are no bags available that are stylish made to carry a handgun, so we took it upon ourselves to create one. Without getting into to much detail, we used one of her old Dooney & Bourke bags to fashion a stylish conceal carry bag that we consider ideal when going out and a body holster isn’t practical. This holster is made specifically for her pistol (incorporating retention)and is well hidden in the purse. While nothing is perfect, we believe we went the extra mile to create something she likes and is just a little safer. .

  • Pete Sheppard

    Thank you. I had speculated on the make of the pistol earlier, on the basis of what sounded like a short-travel, easily manipulated trigger. Tragedies like this show why guns that are ‘easy’ to shoot have to be handled with extra care–because they are easy to shoot.

  • J.T.

    This whole thing just reinforces my belief that it is a bad idea to carry off body. You are not in control of a gun that is in a purse when it is sitting in a shopping cart or when you have it hanging off the back of your chair while eating at a restaurant.

    • raz-0

      I think the issue is less that off body carry is inherently bad, but more that if you off body carry, you have to treat the carrying device as if it were a holstered firearm with a loaded gun in it as that is essentially what it is. I think it is a much worse fit for most people who would consider it than they realize.

      • itsmefool

        Now that’s a logical statement re: OBC…thanks, Raz.

  • echelon

    So, this is exactly what we all knew it was – a tragedy.

    There doesn’t need to be any commentary on anything other than off body carry and small children should be considered only as a last resort method of carry in most circumstances.

    Shoulda’, coulda’, woulda’…

  • Ethan

    This has caused me to rethink just how unwise off-body carry is. I’m advising my wife to not carry in this fashion anymore.

    Our prayers and support go out to the family of the departed. Sometimes bad things happen to good people.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      I will offbody carry in some scenarios due to how my state treats “concealed” vs “luggage”. That said, if it’s a Glock or PPQ its condition3, if it has a safety its on and I’m always concerned about leaving that bag somewhere.

      For almost everyone I would say offbody carry is a bad idea.

  • me ohmy

    that sucks for everyone involved.. the armchair aholes will of course call this anything but what it is… a terrible terrible accident.

  • Blake

    “Rutledge’s family has made it abundantly clear they do not appreciate the attempts being made to use her death as a call for gun control.”

    Thank you. The family deserves some privacy & respect for the deceased.

    If the toddler had rolled over her with a car, no one would be calling for more “car control”, & this wouldn’t have been a media frenzy (well, maybe it would have showed up on Fark.com…).

    (Don’t laugh, it can happen. When I was a toddler my Mom left me in the car while she was away for a few minutes, & apparently I undid the buckle on my car seat & then decided that playing with the shifter & parking brake was a good idea. The car rolled down the steep driveway, across the road, up the neighbors’ driveway, back down the neighbors’ driveway, back across the road, & into the ditch. Luckily no one was hurt except my Aunt’s new Jaguar).

    A bored toddler is a dangerous toddler…

    • Eddie_Baby

      My toddler sister did the exact same thing and I was in the back seat. At the time, that was scary for my eight-year-old self.

    • DIR911911 .

      I did the same thing but it was the grandparents car down the driveway ,across the street,up the neighbors lawn and stopping about 5 feet from their front door.

    • n0truscotsman

      Thats because every scumbag media outlet used it as a political point for “see!? concealed carry is dangerous!” clone article.

      It became a national sensation when it didn’t have to be.

    • mikewest007

      A toddler in Walmart is a bored toddler, if I may add.

  • mzungu

    Must be the “No Thumb Safety” version …

    • Eddie_Baby

      Or the safety was not engaged.

      • floppyscience

        Or the safety was engaged before being put in the purse, and was shifted off during transit. The opposite has been reported as happening at least once while being carried in a fanny pack.

  • MountainKelly

    Curious kid apparently, that does suck.

  • Eddie_Baby

    And I was just thinking about trading my Shield with a safety for one without. With toddlers in the house, I’ll pass on that idea for now.

  • UnrepentantLib

    It seems to me a lot of these incidents with young children could be prevented by simply not having around in the chamber. My father had his M1911 in a drawer next to his bed for better than 50 years. He left the chamber empty and had the mag inserted but not all the way up. I guess his thinking was if you don’t have time to seat the mag and rack the slide you’re SOL anyway.

    • TangledThorns

      I have a little girl and that is something I’m going to do. Especially since I own a Glock 19.

    • Katie A

      Part of the reason I started working on speed chambering a round with my Glocks years ago was for that very reason.

      • gunsandrockets

        I think the Glock is one of the very best pistols for empty chamber carry. The clean blocky slide give lots of area to grip, and the spring forces resisting chambering are low.

  • whskee

    I think the simple addition of a trigger guard cover might have helped, or at least given a little extra safety. I use the Raven Concealment Vanguard with my Glocks and it’s just one more layer to keep the bang switch from getting hit unintentionally. I don’t tend to use it as a holster, but for the house gun when it’s in it’s normal place. Even if I was dead asleep and fumbling like hell groping in the dark, until that cover comes off, it’s essentially safe.

    • Katie A

      Interesting point. I have not seen any CC purses with those snap-on trigger covers included, just soft holsters that velcro in place…that would be a marketing point, I bet, if a company picked that up to market to moms with young children. I am a Glock fan myself and own several. I don’t use a trigger cover, though.

  • david B.

    I know this is going to get some people tweaked, but here we go anyway.
    I once owned an XD40 for EDC. While I appreciated that I could tell the firing pin was cocked, I wasn’t sold on the whole setup. Sold that gun.
    Moved on to Sigs. SA/DA with decocker and external hammer…now we’re talking. Not a name brand thing, just a preference for the action type. From that experience forward I have completely sworn off striker fire weapons.
    My EDC now (for the most part, temperature dependent) is an lc9, old style. DAO, hammer fired, external thumb safety, mag disconnect disabled. I holster carry, and pocket carry. I do have the clip on the side so it doesn’t sit in my pocket, but is clipped to the top of my pocket, always at the ready. I am confident in the safety of this arrangement since I train in its usage, and drawing. It has become instinctual in it’s use.
    I also carry 1911 style weapons depending on clothing. Chambered, but not cocked. I trust in that state of ready as well.
    It’s a sad thing that has happened to this 2A sister of ours. She needed to be in control of her weapon at all times, off body or on body. Hopefully it will help the rest of us to remember the consequences of a lapse in judgement. We’ve all had them before, hopefully this will lessen them.
    Practice what you carry, and technique. These weapons are designed to kill us as much as someone else.

  • Damn poor taste making a statement like that which I why I’m deleting it!

  • I don’t think I would phrase it in that way. It didn’t have to happen and the whole point of this post and the first is to increase awareness not look at a mother as collateral damage.

  • Joshua Madoc

    I can just hear the gun control monkeys stomping in their feet insisting this is cause for more kneejerk gun bans.

  • Rijoenpial

    I can’t stop thinking about lhe poor child… I hope his father and family do their best to cushion lhe blow to him… Otherwise, he will be traumatised for life … Poor kid… As for gun control, this was derelict behavior on the mother’s part, especially lhe unsafe, cocked and locked gun at arm’s reach … unfortunately, she paid for that mistake with her life… So, instead of gun control, safety precautions would have prevented this very sad and unfortunate event which cost a life and will inevitably scar another forever … Cheers

  • Darrell Allen

    To other commenters: Carrying a loaded firearm around children absolutely IS dangerous! Who’s too stupid to know that?!? More and more people carrying concealed guns absolutely IS more dangerous! If you’re too stupid to know that, you’re part of the problem and too stupid to carry a gun. Marines with years of safety training and excessive supervision still accidentally shoot each other and other people.

    This is tragic. This is also predictable.

    Why is it less sympathetic to point out the obvious? My gun safety rule #1: Gun awareness! Always know where your gun is.

    Carry your gun. Conceal your gun. Load your gun and keep it close to you and your kids. But do all this knowing precisely how dangerous this is and work on that consciously. That’s how you prevent tragedy. Or practice gun abstinence…for the absolute safest possibility. That’s straight talk!!!!

  • sometrend

    A very tragic occurance,no matter the details. I refuse to armchair this incident and offer only sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Veronica. I hope this boy grows to be a normal young man and is not encumbered with his mothers death for the rest of his life

  • petru sova

    I agree off body carry is a bad idea for many reasons but lets look at the reality of the “Glock” craze. The M&P is nothing more than a “Knock Off” of the UNSAFE Glock mechanism. Whenever you have no option to use a manual safety on an auto pistol an accident can happen very quickly with such a weapon that has a PRE-LOAED STRIKER MECHANISM”. Touch the trigger and even a 2 year old can set it off accidentally. Accidental Glock shootings are so numerous you could fill a telephone book with them but the shooting public often not only does not understand how these guns work but they also believe that an accident can never happen to them personally. “Gun Week” news paper has over the years published so many accidental Glock shootings I cannot even begin to remember them all.
    In extreme cases of rough carry and carrying in cramped quarters for many hours like on an automobile trip the “Israeli carry” may just be the best and that is with an empty chamber. The gun can be charged far more rapidly than most people imagine as demonstrated in Israeli security training videos. These people live with death and destruction all the time so if this method was not viable they would have given up on it years ago.

  • Ken

    A 2 year old can grip a handgun with their tiny hands AND pull a 6.5lb trigger?

    • Ryan Cragg

      He doesn’t have to grip the gun, just get his fingers onto the trigger and pull the entire gun (and purse) towards him, anchoring it against his chest. 6.5 lbs of force would be easy for a 2 year old. Mine weighs over 20lbs, and hangs from the drawer I keep his soothers in, and pulls himself up to look inside. This is not out of the ordinary; they are literally little apes, and primates have good grip strength and pulling ability.

  • jayhawk79424

    Is it possible that the toddler has seen or handled this pistol prior to the tragic shooting?

    Where else would ‘he’ have gotten the exposure of the pistol?

    Certainly he was watching some westerns or cop shows on TV.

    I just find it hard to see him being able to pull the trigger and point the gun at someone without prior ‘handling’ or exposure to the pistol.

  • Lloydl333

    So sad. This little boy will have to grow up without his Mother and live with the reality that he killed her. My prayers are for him and his family.

  • Frank_in_Spokane

    Hayden is about 30 minutes up the road from us. When I heard the first news reports the day of the shooting, I pictured in my mind that this poor woman was the poster child for the “People of Walmart” website — dimwitted, half a set of teeth, four grubby kids in tow, with her beat-up $100 Hi-Point 9mm flopping around inside her canvas, single-compartment Duck Dynasty “purse.”

    Had all my prejudicial assumptions been true, the story would be no less tragic — and its lessons would be no less applicable to me. But none if them were true. Quite the opposite, in fact. Rutledge was a published scientist, and both her and her husband’s families were deeper into the gun culture than I ever was.

    I’ve done a couple of stupid things with guns in my younger days (about twenty years ago) — thankfully without even so much as an unintentional discharge or anyone suggesting that the police be called. I’d like to think that I learned from those stupidities. But then I hear a story like Veronica Rutledge’s.

    No, I’m not contemplating getting rid of my guns, or no longer carrying concealed. (I had fallen into “safety complacency” shortly after moving up here from Phoenix, but have carried virtually every day since Sandy Hook.)

    But I am going to sit down with my wife, sons and daughters-in-law, and have an open, honest discussion and assessment of our “gun habits,” with an eye toward improving them wherever necessary.

    Now, it’s possible that Rutledge had been an unsafe dolt around guns all her life, and that it finally caught up with her. But I seriously doubt that’s the case. It’s also possible that she had been meticulous about gun safety all her life,

    I suppose it’s possible that Rutledge had been a flagrantly irresponsible gun handler since she was little kid, and that it just finally caught up with her. OTOH, she may have been scrupulously responsible until that day in Walmart. Given what little I’ve learned about her from the news reports, I suspect the latter is closest to the truth.

    My guess on “what went wrong”? Familiarity bred complacency. And with guns, complacency kills.

  • screwtape2713

    Well, according to the police statement linked in this article, her son was sitting in a shopping cart when he pulled the gun out of her purse and shot her while she was “a few feet away”.

    Makes it rather clear that she must have put her purse in the shopping cart next to her toddler while getting items off the shelves… Since the purse was “new to her” (wording in police report), she may very well have normally carried in a holster and just automatically (absent-mindedly) did what she habitually did with her purse while shopping – without even considering that it now had her loaded handgun in it and really needed to be treated differently.

    And after that, the standard equation kicked in:

    Bored unwatched toddler + loaded firearm = very bad mix

    Condolences to her family.

    And just to put that “equation” I mentioned into perspective for the firearms prohibitionist types, here are some other things that could be substituted for “loaded firearm”: “vehicle gearshift”, “household chemicals” (all too often just under the sink in an unsecured cupboard), “pills” (could be prescription, non-prescription, or even that bottle of vitamin supplements sitting on the table), “box of nails / thumbtacks” (something to swallow! Whee!), “electrical cord”, “electrical socket”, “kitchen knives”, “scissors”.

    BTW, putting a couple of those together, did you know that if you take one of those pairs of school “safety” scissors (with the rounded tips and dull blades so nobody can be hurt with them) and you have a lamp with the plug pulled slightly out of the wall to expose a bit of the prongs, and you drop the scissors (which might be “safety” but are still made of metal) across the exposed prong bit, you will either (a) electrocute yourself or (b) blow every circuit breaker in the house?

    How do I know that? Personal experience while a young child. Fortunately for me, (b) happened slightly before (a) would have kicked in…