by Gerry Warner
Last week, my wife and I were getting ready to go to Spokane for “First Night” New Year’s festivities, which our American neighbours do with great pizazz, when the first sickening headline came across my computer screen -- “Toddler fatally shoots mother in Idaho Walmart.”
What’s this, I thought. Some sort of sick New Year's joke? Tragically, this wasn’t the case.
My mind reeled as I read the details. “Toddler shoots, kills mother” screamed a 72 point headline in Spokane's Spokesman-Review. “Just a tragic accident,” said a more sedate head line in the Bonner County Daily Bee of Sandpoint.
An accident! What kind of headline is that? It almost sounds apologetic, I thought to myself as I drove down Highway 95 New Year's Eve towards Spokane. Then another thought quickly bounced into my mind: “we'll be driving right by that Walmart. I think I’ll go in.” No you won't, declared my wife, defiantly surmising my thoughts before I even uttered them.
But what husband ever listens to his wife's counsel no matter how wise it may be? Thirty minutes later we were sitting in the parking lot of the Hayden, Idaho Walmart, where the grotesque tragedy had taken place. Even then, I hesitated. “It all looks so normal.” Shoppers pouring in. Shoppers pouring out. The parking lot full of sale-seekers. No sign of a memorial to the dead 29-year-old mother, a nuclear research scientist who worked for the Idaho National Laboratory, and along with her husband, a strong – I'm tempted to say a fanatical – supporter of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, the right to bear arms. The gun, a loaded 9mm, Smith and Wesson pistol was in a special purse designed to carry a weapon in a retention holster in a zippered pocket. Both the deceased and her husband had concealed weapon permits legal in Idaho. Hayden is also well known as the former home of the Aryan Nation, a neo-Nazi white supremacist group.
A relative told reporters the deceased and her husband were avid gun enthusiasts and had taken many classes in gun safety. “Our whole family; we are gun people,” the relative told the Daily Bee. “Roni usually carried on her person, but they have been researching other ways to conceal their weapons in public.” After analyzing the situation, the relative said he came to a conclusion that may shock those of us who are not “gun people.”
“I can't fault her for doing anything wrong. And I am not trying to defend the gun manufacturer or the purse manufacturer. This is just (a) tragic accident,” he said as if carrying a loaded firearm into Walmart is as necessary as bringing your wallet or purse. Then again, maybe it is necessary in a country known far and wide for its paranoid gun culture and where guns outnumber people and where even the President cowers before the power of the National Rifle Association. Is it any wonder then that the “Home of the Brave and Land of the Free” allows people filled with hate and mistrust to appear in public with loaded, lethal weapons ready to shoot any fellow citizen that inadvertently crosses their path.
Such a country has lost its bearings, and is indeed, an empire in decline. I defy anyone to name me another country where an incident as tragic and senseless as this could take place. Only a jurisdiction where lawmakers have abandoned their fundamental duty of providing security to its citizens could produce a situation as bizarre as a toddler “accidentally” killing his mother as she wheels him around the candy store.
Yet Americans laugh at the follies of North Korea where children starve because of the paranoia of their leaders. But have you ever heard of a child “accidentally” shooting his mother in the Hermit Kingdom?
For that kind of cowardly leadership and lunacy, Americans only need to look in the mirror.
Gerry Warner is a freelance journalist. His opinions are his own.