From the Washington Post. On January 2, 2015: “Larry Wilkins was watching television Friday evening when he heard a faint knock on his front door of his home in Lyon County, Ky., east of Paducah. When he opened the door, he discovered a 7-year-old girl standing in the cold. She was bloodied, covered in scratches and barefoot except for a single sock” . . .
‘She told me that her mom and her dad were dead, and she was in a plane crash, and the plane was upside down,’ Wilkins told NBC News. ‘She asked if she could stay here. I said, ‘Honey, what can I do for you?’ I got a washcloth and cleaned her up. And of course called 911.’
Police have not released the name of the survivor, who managed to walk nearly a mile in the dark through territory full of ‘fallen trees, creeks, ditches and blackberry briars,’ according to CNN. She was taken to a hospital where she is being treated for non-life-threatening injuries, CNN reported.
That girl’s name is Sailor Gutzler, and her story is even more tragic than the lede reveals:
Authorities say the girl was one of five people flying in a Piper PA-34 over Kentucky when it reported engine trouble and lost contact with air traffic controllers about 5:55 p.m. Central time…
Authorities discovered four victims at a crash site ‘in a heavily wooded area near Kentucky Lake,’ according to the AP. Police identified them as Marty Gutzler, 49; Kimberly Gutzler, 45; their daughter, 9-year-old Piper Gutzler; and her cousin, 14-year-old Sierra Wilder. All the victims were from Nashville, Ill.
Sailor was right: her parents, sister and cousin had all been killed, leaving her alone–an orphan.
Also from the Washington Post. On December 30, 2014:
A woman was killed in an Idaho Wal-Mart Tuesday morning when her 2-year-old son accidentally shot her, according to local authorities.
Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Lt. Stu Miller said in a statement that the boy was seated in a shopping cart when he reached into his mother’s purse and fired the gun.
Police have identified the 29-year-old victim as Veronica J. Rutledge from Blackfoot, Idaho. Deputies found her dead on the scene ‘from an apparent gunshot wound.’ She had been shopping with the toddler and other family members, Miller said.
Authorities on the scene said three other children were with Rutledge, and that she had a permit for her concealed weapon, CBS affiliate KREM reported.
Rutledge was visiting from out of town, and the shooting took place as she was in the electronics section of the Wal-Mart in Hayden, ABC affiliate KXLY reported.
Two tragic, and fortunately rare, accidents, two children losing one or more parents, two immensely sad stories that leave people of good will reflecting on life, mortality and fate, stories that encourage us all to appreciate our loved ones and shower them with affection and appreciation. Tomorrow is guaranteed to none.
The public response to both tragedies has been predictable: sadness for the 7-year-old girl’s loss, and cruel, angry moralizing surrounding the toddler’s loss. Because guns.
USA Today’s coverage was a typical, obligatory mention of the tragic aspects of the death, and this:
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence mourned Rutledge’s death at the hands of her child, and said in a statement that children’s easy access to guns too often has deadly consequences.
‘Every day as parents, we make rational choices regarding our family’s safety: We buckle our children’s seat belts, make them wear bicycle helmets and teach them to look both ways before crossing the street,’ according to the center’s statement. ‘Many parents bring a gun into the home legally with no intent of doing harm. Many think they’re doing their family a service by offering protection. Yet these guns cause the majority of gun deaths and injuries.
Put aside, for the moment, the fact that so few toddlers accidently injure or kill anyone, let alone a parent in this particular way. There are essentially no statistics available on the frequency or distribution of such events and consider the cultural snobbery involved:
For East Coast residents, the idea that a young mother would carry a legal, loaded firearm while shopping with her kids might seem unusual. But in the West, especially rural areas where hunting remains an integral way of life, many people carry guns wherever they go.
The Daily Banter was also representative of the anti-liberty mindset, though far coarser than USA Today:
It seems trigger happy Tea Party enthusiasts aren’t the only ones capable of terminating their lives via extreme stupidity – nuclear scientists are too. Of course gun enthusiasts are keen to write this all off as a tragic accident, and are aiming their contempt at anti-gun advocates…
According to the [Washington] Post’s profile of Veronica Rutledge, she was completely obsessed with guns – following Guns.com, the National Rifle Association (NRA). Her close friend Sherry Sandow told the post that:
‘In Idaho, we don’t have to worry about a lot of crime and things like that….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.
The Post article doesn’t portray Rutledge as “completely obsessed with guns,” but rather as an intelligent, capable woman who enjoyed firearms and shooting and carried a licensed concealed handgun. The Daily Banter continued:
Outside of the US, virtually no one understands the pathological obsession with owning and shooting guns. In the UK where I am from, anyone who felt the need to carry a gun to their local store while looking after several very small children would be taken immediately to prison and given a very thorough psychiatric evaluation. This would of course be seen as the Big Bad Nanny State interfering with your God Given Freedom in America, but it is worth bearing in mind that had a sensible legal system been in place that prevented this type of stupidity, Veronica Rutledge would still be alive and her child would not be irreparably traumatized from killing his own mother.
Why did Rutledge take a gun to Walmart with her child and nieces? What exactly was the purpose? To defend herself from hidden assassins in the fruit and veg department? To defeat the terrorists in Walmart before they defeated her at home? While a huge amount of sympathy should go out to the family and those affected by the tragedy, it is difficult to feel too sorry for someone so reckless and stupid that they would leave a purse with a lethal weapon unattended around a two year old. Rutledge literally lived by the gun, and died by it – a fate every weapon wielding American needs to come to terms with. If you carry equipment designed with the sole purpose of killing, there’s a good chance it will actually kill someone.
The kindness and moral superiority of the betters of commoners that carry guns and frequent Walmart is very much on display in the article’s conclusion:
Veronica Rutledge was clearly a brilliant woman with a very bright future. Sadly, she was also an idiot.
Was she an idiot? The Washington Post provides insight:
Veronica Rutledge and her husband loved everything about guns. They practiced at shooting ranges. They hunted. And both of them, relatives and friends say, had permits to carry concealed firearms. Veronica typically left her Blackfoot, Idaho, home with her gun nestled at her side. So on Christmas morning last week, her husband gave her a present he hoped would make her life more comfortable: a purse with a special pocket for a concealed weapon.
The day after Christmas, she took her new gift with her on a trip with her husband and her 2-year-old son. They headed hundreds of miles north to the end of a country road where Terry Rutledge, her husband’s father, lived. The father-in-law learned of the new purse.
‘It was designed for that purpose — to carry a concealed firearm,’ Rutledge told The Washington Post late Tuesday night. ‘And you had to unzip a compartment to find the handgun.
Rutledge’s handgun was zipped into the compartment, and the purse left unattended for just a moment:
An inquisitive 2-year-old boy reached into the purse, unzipped the compartment, found the gun and shot his mother in the head,’ Rutledge said. ‘It’s a terrible, terrible incident.’
Rutledge isn’t just sad — he’s angry. Not at his grandson. Nor at his dead daughter-in-law, ‘who didn’t have a malicious fiber in her body,’ he said. He’s angry at the observers already using the accident as an excuse to grandstand on gun rights.
‘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.
Far from being an idiot, Veronica Rutledge was an exceptional young woman who lived a life familiar to tens of millions of Americans:
The path Veronica Rutledge charted before her death, friends and family say, was one of academics and small-town, country living. ‘Hunting, being outdoors and being with her son’ was what made her happiest, her friend Rhonda Ellis told The Post. She was raised in northeast Idaho and always excelled at school, former high school classmate Kathleen Phelps said, recalling her as ‘extremely smart. … valedictorian of our class, very motivated and the smartest person I know. … Getting good grades was always very important to her.’
She went on to graduate in 2010 from the University of Idaho with a chemistry degree, according to a commencement program. From there, she got a job at Battelle’s Idaho National Laboratory and published several articles, one of which analyzed a method to absorb toxic waste discharged by burning nuclear fuel.
There are surely those that believe citizens should not be able to own or fly aircraft–for their own good, a good they’re not smart or moral enough to recognize–but far fewer in number and less vocal than those that believe citizens must be disarmed and for the same reasons.
Those schooled in the ways of firearms can surely, but kindly, learn from Veronica Rutledge’s death. Carrying a gun in a purse or any kind of pouch or bag not directly connected to one’s body is always less secure than carrying a holstered, concealed gun. Even with a purse designed for concealed carry, one should always carry it over the opposite shoulder so it can’t be easily grabbed, and so one’s arm can protect it. Leaving it unprotected, for even a few seconds, can lead to theft, or as in this case, tragedy. Yet, in the daily flow of life, Rutledge did take reasonable steps to secure her handgun. Thinking it likely, or even possible, that a two year old would be able to unzip a compartment, seize a handgun, pull the trigger and shoot his mother in the head, all within a few seconds, is an unlikely scenario indeed.
Why haven’t people spoken out, advocating the abolition of private aviation? After all, if the girl’s father didn’t have a plane, he and those that died would be alive and his daughter would have her family. In the same way it is narrowly true that if Veronica Rutledge did not have the choice to carry a handgun, she too would be alive and her toddler son would have his mother. Why then isn’t Marty Gutzler being proclaimed an idiot?
All that’s missing is the usual claim that if banning guns would save even one life, it’s a moral imperative to do it.
Those that support the Second Amendment are able to feel genuine sorrow and sympathy at these times, and to refrain from name-calling and demanding emotion-based legislation because they know that what is at stake is not emotion and outrage, but unchanging principle. If Americans are to be free and remain free, they must have an unalienable right to self-defense. This right requires that free men have the effective instruments necessary to defend their lives and the lives of others, and if necessary, to defend liberty itself.
And with these understandings is another: all tools can be dangerous and can and will be misused. Despite all efforts at education, despite all precautions, accidents happen and good, innocent people are injured or killed, but the value of firearms in preserving liberty and protecting lives dramatically outweighs the certainty that some people will misuse firearms, and some people will accidently injure or kill innocents, even people they love.
Firearms are ubiquitous and relatively inexpensive. People that shop at Walmart and don’t live in the civilized East can afford them, for goodness sake! But unlike aircraft, firearms threaten those that would control us all, for our own good. Even if they won’t admit it, they know that it is private firearm ownership that prevents them from achieving their ultimate dreams of control and power. And they resent it, and they hate those that prevent them from imposing the moral superiority and goodness they alone are capable of possessing and imposing on others less inherently wise and good, and so they are justified in their condescension and cruelty and sneering hatred of those, who, by means of their adherence to principle and expression of choice and freedom, stand in the way of the greater good. Ask anyone from “outside of the US.”
Because unchanging principle demands it, we support the right of free men and women to keep and bear arms, and no accident or criminal outrage can justify abandoning that principle. Because we come to an understanding of the necessity and importance of such principles through logic, knowledge of human nature, and with good will, we will not call the victim of a freak accident–newsworthy because such things are so rare–an idiot as we honestly mourn their loss which diminishes us all, and pray for the peace and healing of those that love them.
Who is to determine our choices and the quality of our lives? People like Veronica Rutledge and Marty Gutzler, who by all accounts lived joyful, vibrant lives, lives enriched by the joy of shooting and the joy of flight, or the author of the Daily Banter article, one Ben Cohen, whose emotion-driven ignorance of fundamental principle, whose contempt for free men, and particularly for Veronica Rutledge, speaks for itself?