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June 30, 2008

The "Hidden" Handgun

On June 9, in Columbia, South Carolina, a family’s shopping trip turned into a nightmare when a child found her grandmother’s hidden handgun. The young girl, who is four years old, was riding in a shopping cart when she reached inside of her grandmother’s purse, pulled out a loaded small-caliber handgun, and shot herself in the chest. Luckily, the bullet missed her major organs. She is now recovering after intense surgery and will be released from the hospital soon.

The grandmother, Donna Hutto Williamson, a South Carolina magistrate, possessed a license to carry a concealed weapon in the state. Chief Magistrate Rodger Emerson Edmonds noted that it is common for magistrates to carry guns for protection: "Sometimes some of the judges have to make deposits at the banks. The other reason is for self preservation to protect yourself because there are some crazies out there."

Williamson had been shopping with her granddaughter at Sam’s Club. South Carolina law allows those with concealed carry permits to bring handguns into privately-owned businesses unless they post signs prohibiting firearms on their premises. Sam’s Club posts no such signs at their retail outlets.

It is clear from all reports that Williamson is a well-respected individual in her community. Her case demonstrates that even law-abiding gun owners are subject to the distractions of everyday life, which can sometimes lead to serious lapses in judgment. No one plans on accidents. Williamson believed that her gun would protect her if she was attacked by an armed criminal. In the end, however, it was her gun that ended up nearly killing her loved one.

Thankfully, her granddaughter survived the gunshot, but Williamson is still facing possible charges, including child endangerment and unlawful neglect of a child. Hopefully, this unfortunate incident will be a lesson to others—guns should always be stored away securely so that they are totally inaccessible to children.

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