ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Veronica Rutledge was 29 years old. She was the mother of a toddler and she was a chemical engineer and a published nuclear researcher at the Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory. She lived in Blackfoot, Idaho, in the southeast of the state, but she was visiting family up north in Hayden, Idaho, yesterday when she was shopping at a Walmart, her 2-year-old son in the shopping cart. What happened next has been reported all over the country, if not all over the world. Her son got hold of the gun that Rutledge carried in her purse, which was in the shopping cart. He fired it and he killed his mother. Paul Loomis is the mayor of Blackfoot, Idaho. He knew and worked with Veronica Rutledge and, Paul Loomis, I understand that for you, and the people of your town, this must be a terribly sad day.
MAYOR PAUL LOOMIS: Absolutely, this is a horrible tragedy for the family and for those that know her.
SIEGEL: You worked with her on projects.
LOOMIS: I - I did briefly. I met with her probably five-six times over the last couple years in my former employer's position. You know, she's a very talented, you know, well-educated individual and not an irresponsible parent or somebody that just was strange.
SIEGEL: You know, people in other countries and many Americans hear about this and say it's crazy. How can a loving, responsible parent leave a gun within reach of a child? And they'll say this is a symptom of America's love of guns. What do you say to that?
LOOMIS: Well, obviously, our focus right now is on the family. You know, an accidental discharge like this is highly unusual. In America we do love our rights. And this is one of them. And we obviously are very concerned about the ability for us to carry and bear arms, but I would hope that the focus of this is on the tragedy, not on, you know, a political issue.
SIEGEL: Veronica Rutledge had a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Are such permits common in Blackfoot?
LOOMIS: There are about 85,000 permits in Idaho. That's not the largest number. Now, per capita, that's less than 10 percent. So I don't want people to think that, you know, they come to Idaho and everybody's just a bunch of gunslingers.
SIEGEL: Do you carry a concealed weapon? Do you have - personally have - a permit?
LOOMIS: I do not. You know, I've been around firearms my whole life. I really don't have a need to conceal one - don't feel threatened. Idaho is a wonderful place to live and the decision that a person makes to have a concealed weapon is a personal decision.
SIEGEL: I can hear a listener telling me right now no, it's not only a personal - it's a personal decision and a social decision 'cause it can affect the people around you as well as accidents like this horrible one demonstrate. Do you think that's true or is it simply an individual right?
LOOMIS: Well, you know, frankly, I see it as a personal decision. Our country is founded on certain rights, but we have to be responsible with those rights. There are those that live in urban areas that probably hear this story and feel like that's something that would never happen in their area. But yet we don't have drive-by shootings here in Blackfoot. We don't have the crime levels that exist in some of the larger urban areas. So I feel it pretty much a personal decision.
SIEGEL: Paul Loomis, thanks for talking with us.
LOOMIS: You are welcome.
SIEGEL: Paul Loomis - mayor of the town of Blackfoot. That's where Veronica Rutledge lived. She was shot and killed in a Walmart yesterday when her 2-year-old son got hold of her gun.
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