Toddler Shot to Death at Yellowstone Raises Difficult Questions

yellowstone lakeTerribly sad news out of Yellowstone National Park this weekend. An unidentified 3-year-old girl from Idaho died on the shore of Yellowstone Lake at Grant Village campground on Saturday ... The cause? She was shot with her father's firearm. Disturbingly, the girl's mother called 911 and reported that her daughter had shot herself.  

Still, authorities refuse to say whether the death was an accident, which seems to suggest an in-depth investigation is happening and necessary.

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Let's hope investigators find out how the little girl got ahold of the gun in the first place and rule out the possibility that it wasn't an accident at all. Ugh. Clearly, it's hard to make judgments or jump to conclusions about what exactly happened ... And the smartest thing to do right now is simply acknowledge and lament what a tragedy this is.

At the same time, I feel as though it does bear noting that this was the first fatal shooting in Yellowstone since 1978, and the first shooting death of a child in the park since 1938, when the 13-year-old son of the park's master mechanic accidentally shot himself in the head with a rifle, park authorities said. The incident also comes just three years after enactment of a federal law that lifted a decades-old ban on the possession of firearms by visitors to most national parks, including Yellowstone. Whether or not the horrible incident could have been prevented had the ban remained in place is hard to say ... According to park literature, hunting or even firing a gun is unlawful in Yellowstone.

Sadly, the one thing we can be sure of right now is that the death of this little girl leaves behind more questions than answers for now.

What questions does this leave you asking?


Image via Bernt Rostad/Flickr

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