June 9, 2008
It’s a little known fact, but people who carry concealed weapons are far more dangerous to children than registered sex offenders. Every year, reckless gun owners of all types kill several hundred more children than will ever be killed by registered sex offenders or community ‘predators.’ This next case is a prime example of the potential dangers, and illustrates the downsides that come x along with more people carrying concealed weapons.
In a case that takes child neglect, poor judgment and gun negligence to a whole new level, a 4-year-old shot herself in the middle of a Sam’s Club, using her grandmother’s concealed weapon. Investigators believe the girl was sitting in a shopping cart pushed by her grandmother. She was playing in the cart when she was somehow able to pull a handgun out of her grandma’s purse and shoot herself in the chest.
The entire incident was captured by surveillance cameras located near the store’s pharmacy. The child, identified by her first name as Taylor, was rushed to Palmetto Health Richland Memorial Hospital in critical condition, where she underwent emergency surgery.
Taylor is one lucky little girl. Miraculously, the .32 caliber slug somehow missed the child’s spine and vital organs as it ripped through her small body. “The child was shot just below the sternum and the bullet traveled downward and exited just above the top of her buttocks,” says Columbia Police Captain Thomas Dodson. The fact that it was a higher caliber round may have actually saved her in this case, as the point-blank shot passed straight through her body without bouncing around and doing more damage. Someone at the hospital found the bullet, which was likely trapped in Taylor’s clothes.
She emerged from surgery without complications in stable condition and was soon off the ventilator. She was able to speak and remembers pulling the trigger, and was expected to be released after a few days. Most children who shoot themselves in the chest aren’t so lucky.
The careless, gun-toting grandma was none other than Aiken County Magistrate Donna Hutto Williamson. Police say Williamson did have a valid concealed weapons permit and did have her card with her at the time of the shooting, as required by law. “We certainly believe that if the grandmother had seen she had a firearm in her hand, she would have reacted before the incident happened,” said Dodson. “Looks like grandma’s doing what people would do and that’s shopping. She’s got her mind on shopping and she’s fairly secure her grandchild was right there in front of her.”
I don’t care what Grandma was doing, that purse with that weapon inside should have been nowhere within reach of a 4-year-old child. Police originally said Monday (the day of the shooting) that Williamson would not be charged with a crime, but that changed after police viewed the security footage. Tuesday Dodson said that charges appear likely, possibly child endangerment or unlawful neglect of a child. Police were also looking into the possibility of an unspecified weapons charge. Williamson was expected to be represented by an attorney the next time she met with police.
A friend of Williamson was quick to come to her defense. “She’s law and order, she’s firm behind family,” said friend Mickey Williams. “I know a lot of people that tote guns, they got license to tote guns, but it could easily happen to one of them.” I can almost hear the Looney-tunes music in my head as Mickey speaks. I’m not sure which is more disturbing … this story or the open and eager admission of a fellow gun toter that such negligence is a common occurrence that could happen to anyone.
Sam’s Club, along with many other private businesses, does not ban customers from carrying concealed weapons. The stores spokesperson said they currently do not have a policy on concealed weapons, but might consider one after this incident.
Concealed weapons do not provide public protection, they merely offer the illusion of safety while endangering us all. (See ‘Guns for Protection?’) While in this case it was her own kin who paid the price for this grandmother’s negligence, it could have just as easily been YOUR child shot while shopping. After all, the child shot usually isn’t the one playing with the gun, but another unfortunate child who happens to be playing nearby.