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Olympic Peninsula, Wa

Shooting Death in Yellowstone: From Grant Campground

Two Tents Down at Grant Campground, Yellowstone National Park.

Bison at Sunset, Yellowstone National Park

Bison at Sunset, Yellowstone National Park

 

The quiet serenity of Yellowstone National Park was jarred into panic in the mid-morning hours of Saturday, September 7th, as a small child, just 3 years old, shot herself in the head with a 9mm handgun. Dying instantly, the 10 minutes of CPR provided by a lifeguard on vacation from San Diego were wasted. Her lifeless body was still and doll-like on the picnic table as the Park Ranger and paramedic vehicles raced through the tents and RVs along Lake Yellowstone.

 

The camp residents mulled around in a numb panic. Gray-haired women rushed to the mother of the child, wrapping her in blankets and shielding her from the sight of her lifeless daughter’s body lying on the picnic table. For 10 minutes, all you could hear were panicked voices. A few residents locate the gun and started blocking off the area where the shooting had occurred, others rushed to secure the father and make sure he was in custody, as well as his wife.

 

The residents of campsite I-307 had arrived the day before from Idaho. A young, new family, with both parents, a precocious 3 year old girl and a newborn; staying at Yellowstone for the first time. They had brought a ton of wood with them, filling up a small trailer they towed behind their vehicle. From the looks of it, they were nervous about making sure the kids were warm and safe, as most parents should be. Camping with young children can be rough, and sometimes parents go a bit overboard in how much and what type of supplies are brought.

 

The view from the I-Loop of Yellowstone Lake

The view from the I-Loop of Yellowstone Lake

 

For the residents of “I Loop” in the Grant Campground, the night had been eerily silent. No wolves were howling like they were the night before, few elk were bugling and the geese along the lake failed to make a single honk. At about 9am MST, the silence was broken by one loud popping sound, then half a second of nothing that seemed like an eternity. The silence was a collective moment of shock in the campground. Our brains knew what the sound was and we sat, waiting to hear what was coming next.

 

Gunshot, Inhale.

Pause, Exhale.

Silence broken, screams fill the air.

 

“Oh My God”

“Call 911”

“We need a doctor”

“My baby has been shot”

“Is she going to die?”

“HELP!!”

 

Residents were rushing toward the father, who ran with the dead daughter in his arms through the campground. A trail of blood followed him, and each time he yelled, he would twist and turn, spraying blood on cars and the pavement. He ran four campsites and lay her body on a picnic table, which just moments earlier had been used to eat breakfast.

Blood on cars

Blood on cars

 

The girl’s father walked in circles a few hundred feet from the table his daughter was dying. Through his fingers, which were covering his mouth in shock, he admitted to fellow campers that he had just bought the gun last week to protect his family from wild animals.

 

He was worried about bears, and decided to get a handgun in case a grizzly walked into a campground, filled with a few hundred people, ignored the trash cans, coolers and people in tents and decided to go after his family. He continued to tell the campers that he had left the gun in the cooler, but it wasn’t loaded. He failed to realize that when he first loaded the magazine in the gun, it had left a bullet in the chamber; the bullet that was now into the left side of his daughter’s forehead.

 

Sirens broke the silence and shock. Rangers and paramedics raced to the table and moved the limp body to the ambulance. The ambulance raced out of the campsite as fast as it had arrived, leaving the campground once again silent. The father was transported by golf cart to the ranger station while the mother remained in a nearby camper. Residents of the campsite staggered around in shock, speechless and shaking their heads at a senseless tragedy.

 

The I-Loop of the Grant Campground was closed for two days while the National Park Service conducted their investigation. This was the first shooting death in a National Park since 1978. I was there, two campsites away. 75 feet from where a young girl lost her life. What used to be my favorite place in the world now has blood on it’s hands. Campsite I-307 is where a child was supposed to have their first Yellowstone memories. Instead, she lost her life because of yet another gun death.

Our tent was in the active crime scene area

Our tent was in the active crime scene area

 

Less than a week after the shooting, the I-Loop of Grant Campground in Yellowstone National Park was reopened. Driving by in the late afternoon, the picnic table in site 304 was still there, now covered with a cooler as a young couple was preparing dinner. Campsite 307 now had new residents, presumable unaware that just a few days earlier, blood was covering the post that marked their site. Rain had fallen, residents returned home and the tragedy was forgotten about by everyone except for those of us who were there. The Rangers who responded will never forget that day, and neither will the residents of the I-Loop of Grant Campground.

 

Ella Marie Tucker, I did not know you. I can’t speak for you and I can’t explain why your parents did what they did. All I know, because of what happened, is that I now don’t feel as safe while camping. Your mom and dad didn’t need that gun. You should have been given what I was given in life; a childhood of memories in America’s beautiful National Parks. Your death saddens me and I hope it never happens to anyone else’s child.

Old Faithful Sunset never seen by the victim

Old Faithful Sunset never seen by the victim

91 Responses so far.

  1. Lee says:

    With a heavy heart after reading your story I am so sad for Ella Marie Tucker. And her family. what a tragedy.

  2. kirkesque says:

    Well, that was propagandistic, saccharine, and poorly-written by this anonymous* author. Technically, there’s a least a dozen grammar issue, while emotionally, it doesn’t go far beyond warming your hands at the fire of another’s misery.

    While it is one thing to disagree with allowing firearms into National Parks, it is another to use someone else’s personal trauma for the purpose of furthering your own small ideology.

    For better propaganda writing, you should have gotten Ed Bernays to edit it.

    For more accurate aim at the target of the real problem, let’s blame stupidity. Stupidity has been responsible for far more tragedies than firearms.

    ~k

    * = I see the blog is for a hiking company, but no individual name is attached to this post.

    • ExoticHikes says:

      Sorry we can’t live up to your expectations. We will aim higher. Pun intended.

    • shucks9 says:

      The irony of you complaining about grammar and poor writing is palpable. That you cannot see a connection between this tragedy and some of the *many* problems with how the gun industry is run in this country is beyond sad. Your attempt to distract from this horrifying event and its obvious connections to a poor status quo surrounding guns in this country – both shameful and a failure.

      This father, who certainly had good intentions in obtaining his first gun, was clearly not educated about this weapon prior to or after his purchase. There are no universal safety requirements throughout our country, no standard prerequisites to learn how to use (or more importantly, how to responsibly own) a gun. This was a legal, law-abiding citizen who has every right to purchase and own a gun…yet he (& more expansively, this nation) failed that baby girl by not insisting on a few common sense measures across the board to help prevent tragedies like these.

      These are not cars, these are not adopted puppies, these weapons designed for one use and one use only – to cause destruction and loss of life. Yet there are more standards in place to get your driver’s license, to adopt from the local dog rescue, to vote, to get married (…the list goes on) than there is to buy as many and almost whatever type of gun(s) anyone wishes. It’s utter nonsense and at some point we need to take a stand & say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. No More Names! It’s time to bring logic and reason into this arena and stop focusing so intently on padding the wallets of the NRA. Instead we must continue to allow our citizens to own if they choose, as is their constitutional right, but with at least common sense limits and requirements.

      One’s right to swing their fists shall stop at the edge of another’s nose. Free speech is protected but not in regards to clear and present danger, obscenity, inflammation, defamation, etc. Patriot Act was enacted after 9/11 despite the fourth amendment. Similarly- the second amendment shall be no more loosely set than any other & should be amended (see what I did there? haha) as needed. Gun laws, as they stand, simply do not work.

      • Megalith says:

        Again, the straw man, a gun, is the focus of the issue instead of the real problem, firearms safety. Introducing a gun into a family that has never trained to safely deal with a firearm is the most irresponsible act a parent, or any adult for that matter, can perform. Gun safety takes minutes to teach, years to practice, and seconds to violate. Handled safely, a gun will never accidentally discharge and kill someone. Aside from an extreemly rare instance of a firearm blowing up in your face from a breech failure or a plugged barrel, the most dangerous gun in the world is an empty gun pointed in the wrong direction by someone not properly trained to handle it. If that someone happens to be a kid who got a hold of your “unloaded” gun, you’ve failed as a responsible firearms owner.

        • Mark Anderson says:

          Are you an uneducated idiot who can’t read? ‘shucks’ is saying that is easy to buys guns without mandating compulsory gun safety classes. What part of that sentence did you not get, you illiterate moron. Go ahead and defend the guns and its lobby NRA…..the tide is turning and the young people who will come into power and lead this great nation do not like guns. Hope all you gun nuts can eliminate each other sooner….

          • me says:

            Mandatory anything with regard to firearms will be fought with a vengeance until the rabid gun control fanatics — and our politicians – respect the US Constitution and the Second Amendment. In the eyes of 2nd Amendment supporters, and rightly so, all efforts toward “common sense” requirements are part of the concerted effort to ban private ownership of firearms.

            Mandatory safety glasses sounds great until you understand that the training and associated certifications can be immediately defunded or curtailed to the point that it become impossible to adhere to the requirement. Another feared tactic is that the requirements can be priced outrageously outside the economic reach of many citizens. If you doubt me, just take a good look at Washington DC curtailing citizens access to firearms by only licensing a single gun shop in that district (it is illegal to buy outside the district).

            At least half of the Americans in this country will not stand for mandated helpless victim status. Given the grotesque corruption of our nation’s leadership and the rabid nature of the gun grabbers, there can be little wonder that these same Americans distrust any attempt at mandatory training.

          • Josh Johnson says:

            And 49% of Americans now receive some form of government assistance every month. Your generation will be known as the generation that traded the constitution for welfare, never ending unemployment and all the other free government programs given to you in exchange for your votes and blind party loyalty. There will be a day you will wish you hadn’t so easily given up the guarantees our forefathers gave us that our grandmothers and grandfathers fought and died for. Your new world will look a lot different. I hope I’m dead by then. Or I will die fighting for those freedoms you are so quick to give away. A government big enough to give you every thing you need is big enough to take it all away when they have control of you. Best of luck with that.

      • Aznav says:

        1. Every parent’s nightmare: the horror of burying your own child be it disease, violence, or accident. My sincere (and not patronizing) condolences for the loss of this family. I cannot imagine how life will go on for them as a family unit.
        2. I am an NRA member, but please, hear me out.
        3. Unlike the NRA, I am in total agreement with mandatory gun safety classes, background checks for mental illness, as well as gun registration at gun shows. I’ve been to those gun shows and they flat creep me out.
        4. We are not Great Britain or Australia. We have porous borders and dwarf their populations. You will NEVER get those guns off the streets. The barn door has been open since the 2nd Amendment. If you think more gun restriction laws will be effective, you need to change the wine in your bong. You will have about as much luck getting those guns removed from society as you will in removing undocumented immigrants. It just flat ain’t going to happen.
        5. “…these weapons are designed for one use and one use only – to cause destruction and loss of life”. No, not “one use only”. This is why I support the 2nd Amendment.
        a) We are going on three centuries since we have tasted nationalized oppression. The Founding Fathers put that amendment in to protect us from dictators and despots. Even Yamamoto knew that. The Patriot Act, well-intended has opened also opened Pandora’s Box. And, friend, it did not stop with the present administration. For once, the conspiracy theory nuts are ominously right.
        b) I would like to think I am not a gun not or a member of the Montana Militia, not do I own a gun to increase my testosterone level. Listen to just one 911 call where a mother is begging for the mercy of her and her children as their throats are slit by a crazed meth-head (who will literally weep in front of a judge the next day) and owning a firearm does not seem so radical after all. Bravado? Embellishment to make a point? After two armed break ins in our upscale neighborhood ten years ago, I decided to trade my deer rifle for a handgun…and a whole lotta training – 120 very expensive hours worth. I’m also an Army vet from a bad, bad war. Our two sons have grown up with weapons, know how to use them and how NOT to use them. I want my “guns”. I want to protect my family while waiting for the police to come (they did make it to that poor ladie’s home in just under seven minutes – six minutes too late).
        6. That is why I am a member of the NRA. There is NO ONE else that will fight the jelly-brained agenda of gun control and “gun free zones”. It really is true, the only folks that would comply with those ordinances are – surprise – law abiding citizens. You cannot reason with a meth-head and you cannot reason with a mad man. I literally pray I will never, ever take another person’s life but I also pray I will do it if they are intent on harming my family. Ipso facto!

        • Aznav says:

          ps. Using a 9mm pistol to ward off a grizzly is analogous pushing a thumbtack in a pitbull’s butt. All you’ll do is piss him off mightily.

      • PEC-Memphis says:

        Shucks9,

        This is certainly a tragic event, and I cannot imagine the sadness felt by the girl’s parents. Any death of a child is tragic, even more so when the death is a direct result of carelessness and/or ignorance of an adult and even more so when that adult is a parent.

        A good portion of your post is stating that there are “no universal safety requirements throughout our country, no standard prerequisites to learn how to use (or more importantly, how to responsibly own) a gun.” This is simply not true. The NRA was founded for two (2) purposes: (1) to teach fundamental firearms safety and (2) to teach the fundamentals of marksmanship. Believe it or not, like it or not, NRA training programs have contributed significantly to the reduction of firearms accidents. It was the NRA which established safety rules as a basis for teaching not only in the US, but around the world.

        One of the (NRA) rules is to limit access of firearms to unauthorized persons (children and unknowledgeable adults). I say this because this man was from Oregon, which requires a permit to carry a firearm (as this man did). The Oregon permit requirements include proof of firearms training. Further, Wyoming requires persons from out-of-state to have a permit from a state honored by Wyoming (Idaho is one of them). Since this was in a National Park, Federal law requires compliance with the laws of the state where the park, or section of the park, is contained.

        You have stated that this man was a legal, law-abiding citizen, so to be in compliance with the law, he had to have training (to possess a firearm in the location where the accident took place); or if he did not have training and a permit from Idaho, he was clearly not in compliance with the law. So you see – the very laws you say don’t exist – do exist – and apply in this case. You have demonstrated your ignorance by ranting for laws that already exist. These facts nullify your rant about “logic and reason”, “padding the wallets of the NRA” and “common sense” limitations and restrictions.

        This nation, nor the NRA, failed this child – it was, most tragically, the child’s father.

    • Dave says:

      Ok, pro-gun or no gun, I think that we can all agree that ‘kirkesque’ is a MEGA-ASSHOLE!

      • kirkesque says:

        Ah, Dave. Your narrow range of insults and limited use of language prove only that you are indeed an inarticulate, pusillanimous fuckwit.

        But keep trying. Maybe one day you’ll figure out how to actually comment about something.

    • Holly G says:

      Who is using this tragedy for petty ideology, I’m confused? The petty ideology appears to be in the mind of the beholder. And that’s a minor tragedy. While you may be immune to empathy, conveniently & reflexively disavowing “responsible and law-abiding gun-owners” the moment the inevitable happens, it would be quite unreasonable of you to expect the informed public to act in a similarly callous manner. I get that you are willing to sacrifice the lives of 10s of thousands of American children as an acceptable price to pay for you to “exercise your rights” – the public, however, is not. You may be as immune to shame as your are to empathy, but for the record, shame on you. Shame on You.

    • Capt. Kirk says:

      Yeah that’s it…stupidity killed her. Dumbest fucking thing I’ve ever read.

    • Vizier says:

      But maybe if guns, cars, required some training before you could use one, the father would have known to clear the chamber and his child would be alive. Guns should require training, permits, and regularly updated licensing, just like driving a car. WHY should we require any less?

      • kirkesque says:

        How is ideology used in this article? Much the same way it is used in presumptive statements in reply.

        Because I voice a challenge to the thinking (and certainly the writing) of this, all kinds of presumptions are made about my own perspective, empathy, and political beliefs: only one of which is addressed in my comments, and of that, only the focus of commentary on piss-poor, sickly-sweet platitudes, and the fact that idiocy is more to blame than a firearm. Had the father known and understood that firearm, it wouldn’t have been loaded and in the hands of his child.

        Stupidity killed that child just as surely as being stupid enough to not fasten your seatbelt and/or drive drunk can likely kill yourself or someone else. If that happens, is it the liquor company’s fault you killed someone? Is it the bartender’s fault for serving you? Or is it the alcohol’s fault for breaking down in your body’s metabolism and causing impairment of your faculties? None of the above. It’s YOUR fault for driving drunk. Because YOU are an idiot.

        Likewise, carrying a firearm (in a responsible manner) is not the problem. The problem is some idiot buying a firearm in order to protect his family from wild animals in Yellowstone Park. The actions and thought-processes of an idiot. See the difference? Responsible/Irresponsible. In one case: man has gun, baby not dead. Other instance: man idiot, baby dead. [Simple and poor grammar used to ensure maximum understanding.]

        Burn, Strawman, Burn! Stupidity makes for good kindling.

        P.S. As for empathy, I only briefly wonder about people who speak in such terms: what would happen should they actually be pulled out of their comfortable setting and exposed to actual world tragedies first-hand? How their descriptors of “empathy” would change if they stood on the edge of an open mass-grave filled with parts of victims from genocide? But of course to do that, you’d have to actually have a heart big enough to contain the grief. To possess that heart, you need to have tasted actual emotions; that is, something other than banality and saccharine.

        where once snipers perched
        now, in old town square, a child
        plays with a toy gun.

      • Lady Glock says:

        Owning a gun is protected by the Constitution. It’s a God given right that we have the right to bear arms. We have the right to own and carry guns for our own self protection and self preservation! I’m sorry for this family’s loss…but it’s not the gun’s fault. It’s the fault of the parents who did not educate themselves. It’s not required that gun owners educate themselves. It’s wise to do so, but not required…and it should NOT BE required. I have educated myself…I have trained and practiced. My 2 children were 6 and 2 when I got my first gun and they have been taught how to handle and be save with them. My daughter, the oldest, is now 18 and has been a master sharp shooter with the Junior NRA since she was 11. My son has medical issues and cannot handle the kick of the larger calibur, but he’s still taught how to handle them and often carries my firearms for me since I am unable to do so at times.

        If this family had chosen to learn, to educate themselves, their daughter might still be alive…unfortunately, that isn’t possible now. I feel for them, but put the blame where it belongs and don’t blame the gun for a human’s mistakes.

      • PEC-Memphis says:

        Vizier,

        Hey Perry Mason, you don’t know too much about the law do you? There isn’t a (state or federal)law which requires you to take a training class, pass a test, acquire & renew a license, own, possess and operate a motor vehicle as long as you don’t operate it on governmental property (and in some cases rights-of-way & easements). I don’t know of a state where a training class is required to acquire a license, you only have to pass a test; and, under normal circumstances, recurrent testing is not required.

        Contrast this with the requirements of most states to possess a firearm on any public access property (MORE restrictive than operating a motor vehicle). Most states require a permit/license to possess a firearm in these areas, and most of these states require training classes and passing a test. Some states even get to decide if you should get a permit, or not, at their discretion (demonstrated need). Can you imagine your state denying you a motor vehicle operator license just because they think you don’t need one?

        In this case, for this man to possess a firearm in the location where this accident took place, the state and federal laws DO require him to have a permit, and show proof that he passed a training class. So Mr. Mason, your argument in this case is incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial!.

  3. Laura Ashby says:

    I am appalled by this piece of editorial. How dare the writer use the very sad and ACCIDENTAL death of a child as a way to promote their obvious anti gun views and then blatantly BLAME the parents, I quote ‘I can’t explain why your parents did what they did. All I know, because of what happened, is that I now don’t feel as safe while camping. Your mom and dad didn’t need that gun’ for it??? This is disgraceful that it was even allowed to be published! The parents will be grief stricken enough with ‘what if’s’. Yes – there will be many questions but for sure – the parents believed they were being protected. If they had no defense in the wild and were mauled by a bear – what then, you blame the parents for not thinking for having no protection!!! There are sad accidents every day with young children in numerous circumstances – are such articles published in the same manner? NO!! So therefore I believe the writer should apologise for his/her finger pointing. It is not necessary. What has happened will be hard enough on the parents for the rest of their life – to read such inconsiderate drivel in the belief the writer has that right to promote their opinion in the guise of sad story, as a reader I do not wish to hear it. For the record – I am NOT a gun owner – but I sure as hell believe the parents were acting one what they thought was right but, nothing can take back what has happened. They have to deal with it. Respect that and air your gun views in a more appropriate place. It was not a shooting of intent, it was a very sad ACCIDENT.

    • ExoticHikes says:

      Where is a more appropriate place than my personal blog?

    • shucks9 says:

      Let me guess…”now is not the time?” Wayne, is that you, buddy?

    • Susan says:

      In my opinion, those parents should be facing jail time for contributing to the death of a very small child.

      And everyone in the campground (at the time of the shooting) should sue them for ruining their vacation.

      I am SO OVER making excuses for the gun owners out there and their irresponsible and deadly ways.

    • Holly G says:

      Readers impose their own ideologies on any piece of writing they encounter, of course. Sorry this piece challenged or threatened your values. (Perhaps you should shoot your computer screen if you feel the need to be protected from the public’s unambiguous rejection of your values.) Accidental shootings are every bit as unacceptable as intentionally malicious ones, and 41 times more likely to occur in the families of gun owners. Not everything is about you, you know?

      • PEC-Memphis says:

        Holly,

        Quote (Holly): “Accidental shootings are every bit as unacceptable as intentionally malicious ones, and 41 times more likely to occur in the families of gun owners.”

        Quote (Holly)”…but you are 41 times more likely to use the gun to kill a family member or neighbor than on the mythical boogeyman you’re “protecting” youself from.”

        You have misquoted your own misinformation.

        The statistic that you are reaching for is that “handguns are 43 times more likely to kill a family member than a criminal”. This is from New England Journal of Medicine,”Protection or Peril?: An Analysis of Firearm Related Deaths in the Home” (1986). The methodology used in this (so-called) “study” is so flawed that most gun control advocates will not quote it anymore because it lessens their credibility. In fact, the author later admitted in the mid 1990’s that his study was biased and prejudicial. There are too many flaws in the study to detail in this response, so I’ll just hit the high points. [1] 86.3% of the known types of death were suicide. [2] The study included deaths not related to the “gun in the home” – so if a gun were locked in a safe and a criminal came into the home and killed the homeowner with a knife – under the Kellerman criteria this data would be included in the “study”. [3] The data was for a very limited time and geographic area (1978-1983, King County, WA). [4] The determination of justifiable vs. non-justifiable homicide were not based upon the final outcomes of the cases, some of the deaths Kellerman classified as criminal homicides were later determined to be self-defense. (Note: only 10.3% of the deaths in the study were originally classified as criminal homicide, and 3% were accidental)[5] Self-defense cases which were outside of the building structure, but on the owner’s property, were intentionally omitted from the data. [6] Of the actual criminal homicides, 71% of the victims had records of serious criminal offenses, ie. the homicides were associated with other criminal activity – mostly illegal drug distribution. [7] The study is highly misleading in that it only includes cases where self-defense resulted in the death of the attacker; an attacker does not have to be killed for a defensive gun use (DGU)to be effective.***

        A similar study was performed for the same time period and location using the Kellerman criteria for violent deaths vs. self-defense where there was NOT a gun in the household. The result: the ratio was 99:1. So will you go about quoting that family members are 99 times more likely to be killed, than kill someone in self-defense, if you DON’T have a gun in the home? This illustrates how nonsensical the Kellerman methodology and conclusions really are.

        About the only conclusions that can be drawn from the Kellerman “study” is that you significantly reduce your chances of death by not committing suicide and/or not being involved in criminal activity; which would seem intuitively obvious to the most casual observer.

        ***Since ~92% of DGU’s do not involve firing the gun at the attacker. Of the cases when shots are fired at an attacker, only ~1.2% result in the death of the attacker; of DGU’s, only ~0.1% result in the death of the attacker. (BJS & FBI data). Further, resistance of an assault using a firearm gives the best chance of not being killed or injured – more than 4x better than compliance, more than 6x better than resistance with a knife and ~7.5x better than non-violent resistance.

    • Vizier says:

      If the parents had proper gun training, this would not have happened. Do you drive a forklift without proper training? Run a jack hammer without being trained? Why don’t we require the same for gun usage?

  4. Ken Fentley says:

    This is sad and stupid considering that the National park Service has REMOVED all wild animals from the park. There is NO reason to have a gun there or in ANY national park.

    • ExoticHikes says:

      Actually the animals are quite dangerous, but mainly for people hiking and backpacking in the backcountry. With a record grizzly population, you do need to be safe around wild animals, but as far as the National Park has reported to me on numerous phone calls, crowded campgrounds have never seen a fatality attack by a bear.

  5. […] Shooting Death in Yellowstone: From Grant Campground […]

  6. […] Shooting Death in Yellowstone: From Grant Campground […]

  7. Norri Leder says:

    I work with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Thank you for your powerful piece. I read about this tragedy when it occurred. I have camped in Yellowstone and have visited the park numerous times. This saddens me tremendously. We’re working hard to build a culture of responsibility around gun safety adn storage. Too many of these stories happen every day. We’re also working hard to pass common sense laws like universal background checks to keep guns out of the wrong hands. Until we all speak up and work on this, I’m afraid we’ll see a lot more of these sad stories. Again, thank you for writing and sharing this piece.

    • Not Fooled by Leftists says:

      Your “common sense” dictates would NOT have had any effect on this tragedy.

      What WOULD have an effect is to remove (confiscate) firearms from citizens, leaving only the police and military with weapons.

      See how well that works in Mexico, or any other third-world hellhole.

      The NRA has done more for the culture of firearms safety than your mewlings ever will.

      • ExoticHikes says:

        I believe the only gun control I have mentioned is to remove guns from National Parks. So far, they have saved zero lives in the National Parks. This piece has no real agenda, just speaking the truth of what I saw and experienced.
        Is the death of a child worth the illusion of safety from bears that never attack?
        What is your solution?

        • kirkesque says:

          Your piece speaks no truth, only singular perspective and tepid ideology amidst the grammatically-poor rhetorical platitudes.

          And if you really believe that this piece—or any writing—has no agenda, you’re either naïve or ignorant, and should probably stop working with the loaded weaponry of words. All communication has intent. Good communication has reason and intent. The best communication has reason, intent, and authenticity.

          One out of three is certainly a start.

        • CheckTheFacts says:

          “Is the death of a child worth the illusion of safety from bears that never attack?” – ExoticHikes

          In as recent as 2011, both John Wallace and Brian Matayoshi were killed by bears in Yellowstone National Park.

          Attacks by bears have risen as human populations have grown, according to a study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management in 2011. The study found that between 1900 and 2009, 63 people were killed in 59 incidents in Canada and the United States.

          Those numbers don’t include the attacks that didn’t result in death.

          If you think you are safe in your tent, you should know that in 1983 Robert May was dragged from his tent, and eaten at the Rainbow Point campground, northwest of Yellowstone National Park.

          The fact that this was the first shooting death in a National Park since 1978, should be a proof that guns aren’t an issue. The parents in your story were irresponsible parents and gun owners. It is a tragic loss that could have been easily prevented. Cleary the father had no clue what he was doing as he also thought a 9mm handgun was an adequate bear gun.

          • ExoticHikes says:

            Were they camping in a crowded campsite??

          • Gail Heineman says:

            Take a can of bear spray (capsicum). It works, and doesn’t kill anybody. There is no safe way to use a gun in a crowded campground.
            When I hike by myself in remote areas of Alaska, I do sometimes carry a gun rather than pepper spray, but in the 30 years I have been doing so, I have never had any occasion to use a gun. Every bear that I saw, ran from me. I did have a shotgun pointed at me by a weird man, him thinking it was amusing or something (he was an alcoholic) but if he did choose to shoot me, there was no way I could have had time to shoot him first.
            There have been a few fatalities in Yellowstone by rogue bears, but never have the victims used pepper spray to my knowledge. Correct me if I’m wrong.

        • Not Fooled by Leftists says:

          Never attack?
          http://abcnews.go.com/US/bear-attacks-raise-safety-concerns/story?id=19993374

          “But the number of bear attacks is up across the country. In Yellowstone alone, there have been 64 percent more attacks so far this year than there were last year.’

          Besides, your view on firearms is clear from your article.

          And I was answering Norri Lender’s comments primarily.

          My solution?

          The father had purchased the firearm the week earlier. I would guess that he never fired it or had any training.

          That is where the NRA comes in. They have been conducting firearms and safety training since 1871. There are over 97,000 NRA certified instructors, training hundreds of thousands people annually.

          Fear of an inanimate object, like a firearm, often is based on ignorance. Training, in a warm, supportive environment is what the NRA strives for.

          Attend a class yourself and see.

        • None says:

          It’s not just bears that attack, it’s humans, as well.

          If you really were for “gun safety” you’d offer classes to families on how to properly handle/secure/store a firearm, and NOT come up with a bunch of draconian laws to make a bunch of middle class soccer moms “feel good” about themselves.

          • ExoticHikes says:

            Why should I provide gun safety? I offer hikes and photography. Gun safety should be given by gun experts.

        • Sue Steiner says:

          I appreciate you writing this. It brings awareness to the secondary trauma that occurs after a tragedy such as this. Not only has a young child lost her life, but all of the other campers now have to deal with the sights, sounds, memories and a lost sense of safety. I do not see this author using this tragedy as a political ploy but sharing what they experienced personally as a result of a gun in the wrong hands.

          I also am a victim of gun violence and feel it is important to speak out because many are no longer able to. This little girl can never speak out again so for her sake I am glad the author did.

        • PEC-Memphis says:

          There have been [in National Parks] animal attacks on humans – and more often – human attacks on humans (murder, rape, aggravated robbery, kidnapping). The need for self-defense can arise anywhere.

          The [legal] ability to carry a firearm in a National Park is fairly recent, and there aren’t reliable statistics for deaths that [u]didn’t happen[/u], so your claim that a life has never been saved cannot be confirmed. The National Park Service does report, however, that there are about 4,000-4,800 “serious criminal offenses” (their description) in National Parks per year. And in the US, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)estimates that there are 800k-1M defensive guns uses (DGU’s) per year.

      • Sheila M says:

        gun safety is the issue here, and the ease with which toddlers can pick up a gun and kill themselves and the “accidents” which happen when adults claim they didn’t realize the gun was loaded. This little girl in Yellowstone is just one of the more than 15 other very young children who killed themselves this year when they picked up a loaded gun and it went off: Ryder Rozier, age 3; Brennan Nowell,2; Sincere Smith, 2; Nevaeh Benson, 6; Jamarcus Allen, 4; Joshua Johnson, 4; Jaiden Pratt, 4; Micheal Easter,3; Roderick Paige,4; Qui’ontrez Moss,3; Jadarrius Speights, 3; Kinsler Davis,2; Trenton Mathis, 2; Brandajah Smith,5; Damon Holbrook, 3; plus several youngsters whose names were not released by the local press. Then there were the ones who were accidentally killed by their sisters or brothers, or even their parents when a gun that was thought to be unloaded was picked up. Surely we could work together on finding ways to make it more difficult for young children to kill or hurt themselves or others with guns, and to create methods that alert people when a gun is unintentionally left loaded.

      • OneLife says:

        There are no words to describe the depth of contempt I hold for you.

        The NRA has helped cause more loss of American lives than the 9/11 terrorists, the Iraq insurgency, the Taliban fighters and Al Qaeda combined.

        Another gun that destroyed another family.

        One day, every one of you gun nuts will be held accountable for the national sickness you have inflicted.

        • Not Fooled by Leftists says:

          One life,

          Your contempt is quite pathetic.

          You are able to freely express your opinions because men, with guns, fought and died to secure your freedoms.

          It must be terrible, living your one life as a hoplophobe.

          I choose to do something to directly affect these accidents. I train people in the safe use of firearms as an NRA certified instructor. In my entire life (and I’m nearly 60), none of my students have had any accident that injured another person.

          What have you done?

          • ExoticHikes says:

            Thank you for training people. I mean that. We need more classes and more education from both sides.

      • shucks9 says:

        You don’t believe a universal requirement for safety courses and learning how to use a gun would have been beneficial in preventing a tragedy where a father, who purchased his *first* gun 1 week prior, was unaware there was still 1 bullet in the chamber when he placed his gun in his cooler, clearly without the safety on? You don’t think a small and seemingly “no duh” alteration like that might have helped? Really? What are you afraid of?

      • Holly G says:

        The gun nut trolls are out in force, patrolling the web for any hint of sympathy for the collateral damage to their totalitarian worldview. Fortunately, the number of households with guns in them in the US is declining. Hunting is decreasing, the young aren’t interested, immigrants are not packing. Unfortunately that means fewer and fewer people with the most extreme NRA ideologies and most tenuous grip on their humanity and compassion, are buying more and more weaponry. It seems that “law-abiding and responsible gun owners” suffer from some kind of body dysmorphia – they just don’t see, when they look at themselves in the mirror, the monsters they have become. It IS mental illness, this complete unawareness of the hideousness of their actions. In this, they resemble the Taliban or Al Shabab – people have let their heartfelt beliefs and insecurity replace their humanity. The comments here, from the patrollers of NRA purity, are proof of that. Repulsive. Utterly and absolutely repulsive.

      • Suzanne says:

        We are not a third world country ,but we have a gun problem. Not admitting that there is something very wrong here is like sticking your fingers in your ears and saying “la la la I can’t hear you.” We lose more children and adults to guns in one day than we lost in 9/11. I don’t understand where the disconnect starts. Why is it so important to own a gun? For protection? Protection from what? There is no boogyman hiding under the bed. He’s hiding in your head. During a domestic dispute, a gun in the house raises the odds to a 50% chance someone will get shot. We were shocked when 20 little children were mowed down. We were shocked when a young man shot up a movie theater in Aurora, and we were shocked when a young man shot a Congresswoman at a grocery store along with the people and children around her. The answer thrown around is always these shooters were mentally ill. Of course they were, we figured that out after they shot people. Very seldom do you hear about people shooting someone in self-defense, unless your last name is Zimmerman. What’s a law abiding citizen? Are not we all law abiding citizens? We stop at red lights, we drive the speed limit, we license our dogs. We obey the law. Gun owners do not get extra points because they own a gun. We have a gun problem and the only way to solve it is to ignore the NRA, look at your self in the mirror and say “today I’m going to think about this. Do I really need a gun to define who I am or can I say I don’t need this liability on my shoulders because I have nothing to fear.”

      • Vizier says:

        Training, training, training, could have saved this child. If states required gun owners to be TRAINED on their weapons, many many of this type of accident would never happen.

    • ExoticHikes says:

      Thank you for your support.

  8. Marie D. says:

    Your piece was very powerful and beautifully written. I am sorry to hear that you were in the Park during the shooting and I am sorry that a beautiful little girl, Ella Marie Tucker, loss her life.

    RIP Ella Marie Tucker.

    • ExoticHikes says:

      Thank you. With every tragedy comes hope. All I can do is write what I experienced and hope that because of my words, someone will remember to be safe with their guns. I do worry about more incidents with more gun ownership, but this was written to state what I saw, heard and experienced. Thank you for your kind words, and like you I am sorry for the loss of life that occurred at one of America’s most beautiful places.

      • Marie D. says:

        Continue your fight; don’t let the other side bother you. I am a gun-safety Advocate who believes that we need gun regulations to help stop death by guns.

        I don’t understand how people can say that the father wasn’t at fault.
        I am sure that he feels terrible and is heart-broken but the fact is that he was negligent. It is the parents responsibility to keep their kids safe and he failed.

        You also do not need to justify your feelings to anyone. You and the other witnesses have a right to your feelings because you were there to witness the tragic event.

        My best to you and RIP to the beautiful Angel.

  9. Ande Kobek says:

    In my 53 yrs. of living and most of those years spent camping in various parks around our beautiful country have I ever felt threatened enough by anything or anyone to carry a firearm! This story is a tragedy for the sweet innocent child & the other campers..her parents should be held accountable for their irresponsible actions because as they say guns don’t kill people, people do! Thank you for sharing your incredible account of that most sad day!

    • shucks9 says:

      Agreed. A modern threat can now be found in increasing numbers of untrained citizens feeling the need to carry guns wherever they go….with the accident list to show for it.

  10. Dave Marino says:

    Tragic. Owner’s “total irresponsibility” and lack of gun mechanics/safety-especially around around children. Guy buys new powersaw, leaves it plugged in inside garage, child wanders inside and a child dies in accident- Should we ban powertools? Owners responsibility would have totally prevented this.

    • shucks9 says:

      Right. Totally the same thing. Item created with the sole purpose of injuring/killing another creature as compared to a power tool. Yep. You’re on the ball there, dude.

  11. OneLife says:

    Thank you for sharing this tragic story. I hope you will pass it on to your representatives in Congress and at the state level.

    This is a life that would never have been lost had National Parks remained gun-free zones.

    • ExoticHikes says:

      I have contacted congress, with zero response. It is up to the American people to do this, not the person with the loudest voice. We will keep fighting for what we believe, and suggest every else does the same.

  12. Vetlauf says:

    Thank you for the article. As for all of you with your sickening, perverse comments: like “Notfooledbyleftists”, I just love how you people always compare the US to other countries such as Mexico. Is that a fair comparison? I would like to think the US is at a different level than Mexico, but Notfooledbyleftist seems to think Mexico and the USA are quite similar countries. I’m sure you’ve never been outside your own backyard. Last I checked the US was an industrialised, civilised country. But how can it be with fools like “None”, “kirkesque” or “Dave Marino” with their pathetic pro gun arguments all around? Is there a more idiotic argument than Dave Marino’s? Hello, Dave, in case you didn’t know, a power saw is manufactured to saw through things, so you know, we don’t have to saw manually. A gun has no other purpose than to kill. Thats it, guns kill. Nothing else. Unless you have other purposes for your guns, maybe they keep you warm and cozy at night. A death caused by a power tool is an accident, death caused by a gun is intention to cause death, no matter how it happens.

  13. Christine L says:

    Your story moved me. Thank you for sharing it. The statistics of accidental deaths by gun need a personal story. Keep telling your story. Tell your legislators. If we all tell our stories, they will have to listen. I mourn for this little girl and pray for her family.

    • ExoticHikes says:

      Thank you for your support. Let me know how I can help. I am just saddened that this had to be written and experienced.

      • Dave Marino says:

        I used an analogy of power tools the same as I would as leaving a pack of matches near a child. This is a heartbreaking tragedy, as a father of 2 grown girls- I cant even fathom this. But owning firearms is a huge responsibility, you cant just leave a gun with a round left in the chamber lying around in a cooler near a child- ever. As far as being Progun- its just common sense, bad guys will always have guns- so I should stop them when they are breaking into my home at 3 am with harsh words? Wait patiently for the police as my wife and me are being tied up

        • Dave Marino says:

          -and who knows what could happen. I refuse to be a victim- I want a fighting chance when the “thug” corners me in a parking lot and could care less about my life. I’m an American and yes its my right to protect my family- good luck waiting on the police to save your life and magically appear before its too late. Truly the only way to stop a bad guy intent on evil-

          • Dave Marino says:

            with a gun- is with a gun! Don’t be a defenseless victim- its your right to defend yourself and family! Get training for your firearm, and be a responsible person and lock them away from children! Simple.

          • Vizier says:

            Dave, I’m sorry you live in a place where it is so dangerous that you feel the need to protect your family with a lethal weapon. Please make sure YOU don’t leave any rounds in the chamber to for your children to discover with their skulls.

        • Holly G says:

          What you are afraid of is irrational. I know you’ve heard this a trillion times and must be well-defended against the truth of it, but you are 41 times more likely to use the gun to kill a family member or neighbor than on the mythical boogeyman you’re “protecting” youself from. The pyscho-pathology of gun-fetishism is that you feel weak, and the gun gives you the illusion of power. While a gun may address your feelings of impotence as a man however you define it, you are more of a danger to yourself, your family, your children, your neighbors and your community than any criminal. And unfortunately, you are more of a danger to my kids than a criminal. The “responsible gun-owner” on Monday is Tuesday’s deranged lunatic. One and the same person, on different days.

          • PEC-Memphis says:

            Holly,

            The “boogeyman” is hardly mythical. The US Bureau of Justice Statistics – NCVS (an unbiased source) cites defensive gun uses (DGU’s) occur between 800,000 and 1,000,000 times per year. (Biased sources cite between 100k and 2.5M DGU’s per year)

            Your quote about killing a family member or neighbor (41 time more likely) isn’t even what the highly flawed study, where this figure (actually 43x) came from, concluded. For FACTUAL information about the Kellerman study, see my earlier post.

            Your credibility would be much better if you wouldn’t keep misquoting this misinformation.

        • Vetlauf says:

          But Dave, no one is teaching anyone to have that responsibility, or even requiring it. At the cost of innocent victims, these children. That is the problem. And do you REALLY believe that if some gun-toting criminal breaks into your home at 3am, you’ll be quick enough to raise from a deep sleep and alert enough to defend yourself? If so, you have seen far too many Hollywood films. Because you’ll end up shooting your daughter coming home from a late night out, more likely. And your hypothetical intruder with a gun (just WHERE do you live anyway, to have so much fear of that happening?) just wants your material things, is t really worth risking your life to defend them? Then that says it all… don’t get a gun, a big dog is all you need if your that afraid. How do you even sleep at night, with so much fear, Dave?

  14. Kristin says:

    Thank you for sharing this. It was clearly and compassionately written. Sorry you’re experiencing the fear and anger of those who can’t bear to hear true and tragic stories caused by overly easy access to firearms. Had this father been required to take a gun safety class — learn to load, unload, clean, store, properly fire — his gun, this would not have happened. These types of accidents may be a minority of gun deaths and shootings, but they are some of the most avoidable.

    Thanks again.

  15. not relevant but i waiting at the stupid bus station the only website i can logon to is this one good read anyway…

  16. Dave Miller says:

    A 9mm would be of little use from an angry bear. Unfortunately there were so many missed opportunities for this man to be properly educated. I think the issue goes well beyond allowing guns in state parks. Most people buy firearms to protect them from other people and unfortunately they can be a legitimate threat.

  17. Lisa Adams says:

    I appreciate this personal testimony to what you saw and experienced that day. Thanks for being one of those unafraid to speak up for the kind of society we really want; a society where guns are not felt to be necessary articles for a family vacation. This is so very sad. I will never understand this misguided notion that guns keep people safe when all evidence demonstates quite the opposite. I think your essay was sensitive to the tragedy of the family but refuses to minimize the reality of the real dangers implicit in gun ownership.

  18. LanaK says:

    Heartbreaking all the way around. Another senseless and preventable tragedy. Perhaps its time to rethink the National Park gun policy. While guns might provide protection in a worst case scenario/last resort situation – they are much more likely to injure/kill someone it was meant to protect. An innocent child was lost but gun also pose a threat to animals -whose environment we are encroaching. There have been cases in which people have shot animals they erroneously thought were a threat.

    “This whole thing adds up to that people need to make sure they are in a self-defense situation,” Bruscino said in an interview after the trial. “You can’t kill wildlife based on an undemonstrated fear of an unrealistic threat.”

    In their verdict, jurors seemed to acknowledge that Westmoreland had no malicious intent when he killed the animal. But they were convinced he was not defending himself from a real threat.
    “Under the circumstances, we feel the defendant acted out of fear instead of self-defense,” the verdict said.
    “Just killing a grizzly bear because it scares you is not going to fly,” he said. “That’s the message of this case.”
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/06/02/872261/-The-First-Gun-Death-in-a-National-Park#

  19. Thor says:

    Kirkesque, “…there’s a least a dozen grammar issue”…seriously? Are you trying to parody your own ignorance? That so many people would show up here trying to make a distinction between the cancer of guns and the rank stupidity of this poor child’s father shows just how low America has sunk. This nation seems hellbent on killing itself, one idiot at a time.

  20. JohnT says:

    The many comments that have already been posted echoes the heartfelt sorrow we all feel and sincere condolences that we all wish to extend to the parents that have experienced the most horrible of tragedies, central to the story described.
    I have two children, both mostly grown-up at this point, but when they were young and went missing at the mall briefly, the feeling can be paralyzing so what they feel right now is inconceivable unless you have also been through the same thing.

    As far as the gun issue itself, I can understand the protective instinct that those that are pro-gun have. I can even understand how they might be offended when those that aren’t as pro-gun, especially those that are anti-gun, might use these unfortunate occurrences as a platform to call for change. What I can’t understand however, is the venom that is displayed by those same people while supposedly defending their right to possess them. In my estimation, pro-gun objections are much more derogatory to those hat oppose them than the anti-gun calls for change aimed in the other direction.

    Everything that even smells like a regulation or a law was put in place as a result of a recognition that not everyone is going to make the wisest decision if left to their own devices. Everything from stop signs to laws designed to protect women with ex-husbands that don’t pay child-support to requirements for fencing when you have a pool in your backyard are there to try and direct the 95% of people that have no intention of doing harm to anyone but simply don’t make decisions with everyone else in mind.

    I have never fired or even held a gun and have no desire to do so. I have no specific complaint about the desires of others to legally possess them. My argument in general is in the attitude of the two sides. Yes, control is the underlying factor in both arguments, with one side wanting it and the other side not wanting to give it up. However, I do think the anti-gun argument is a societal concern while the pro-gun argument is individual. Society is better served with regulations, from airplane maintenance, pilot training and rigid procedures to the management of your own property where exposure to the public is possible and/or predictable and everything in between.

    Yes, crooks will still have guns even if, by virtue of these proposed or generally-viewed-as-needed regulations, you do not. Does that mean that because that same crook could steal your car and drive it without a licence, you shouldn’t have to properly obtain yours? Should the pilot that has your existence in his control at 35,000 feet, be allowed to take the captain’s chair without appropriate training?

    While there may be a few out there that are blindly against personal weapons, I’m sure most would feel comfortable with additional regulations. We all want to be reasonably sure that our next door neighbor knows how to operate the weapon he owns, doesn’t have an itchy trigger-finger as a result of inexperience and an inability to control the associated anxiety and can hit what he aims for when the time comes that he has to aim it in the first place. We all take for granted that the person next door has a valid licence when he unlocks his car, starts it and drives away, because of the regulations put in place. Even though that might not be the case, 99.9% of the time, its true.

    Next time you get offended when I say I want your gun regulated, think long and hard about the possibility I am the 0.1%, that I have no licence to drive my car, next time you walk down the sidewalk in front of my driveway while I’m in the driver seat!! That’s how I feel every time I see anyone that has a gun that is not required have the appropriate training to use it. The fact that you may have decided to obtain that training voluntarily is irrelevant as there is nothing in place currently that says I should rely on that fact.

    • Dave Marino says:

      Well stated John T, I totally agree that maybe there should be a training course “before” you are allowed to just walk in a store to buy a weapon. I was fortunate enough to have served in the miltary- where you knew your rifle/sidearm in pretty good detail because your life depended on it in Afghanistan. I’m not the die hard pro- gun guy who hates anti- gun people- its your choice- but its mine too

  21. Lisa says:

    Read this while lying in bed on a Sunday morning. My pillow is now soaked with tears. Poor Ella and her family. Guns do not kill… BUT, People with guns kill.

  22. RB says:

    Accidental shooting deaths of children is more common than we want to believe. We need to seriously look at the availability of guns to children and how kids are killed or hurt so often by accidental gun fire.

    They die in the households of police officers and drug dealers, in broken homes and close-knit families, on rural farms and in city apartments. Some adults whose guns were used had tried to store them safely; others were grossly negligent. Still others pulled the trigger themselves, accidentally fracturing their own families while cleaning a pistol or hunting. (From the NY Times)

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/29/us/children-and-guns-the-hidden-toll.html

  23. Bob Schatz says:

    Over a 40-50 year time span I’ve camped and hiked in practically every National Park in the continental US; camped in numerous State Parks and National Forest campgrounds; from primitive camping areas to well developed campgrounds. Most of those times I was with family including my kids when they were babies. At no time have I or my family ever been confronted or felt threatened by a wild animal and I’ve hiked in some fairly remote areas. If anything I’ve felt more threatened by humans in these areas then animals. There is absolutely no need for a firearm in a NP. I blame the NP Service for allowing them and for this child’s senseless death. This crime should be reason enough to repeal this stupid law and it should be against the law to carry a firearm in a NP.

  24. Gary Cormier says:

    I agree. A course in gun ownership should be required before buying one. It’s called two years active duty in the U.S. Army or Marines. Nuff said.

  25. me says:

    9mm against a bear? Not likely.

    There was a time in the USA that children learned at an early age how to use and be safe with a gun. Then the government decided it needed “gun control” to keep everyone safe. So far it’s as successful as 0bama’s hope and change.

  26. me says:

    In case you’re wondering, President Obama signed into the law the act permitting loaded firearms in national parks, including Yellowstone.

    http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/washington/2009-08-15-obama-saturday_N.htm

  27. Will Spence says:

    So long ago this piece was written. So real the memory today. A child is gone and a family is shattered. Sometimes good intentions can lead to tragedy. To make this piece anything else than it is just spits on the real story. If you don’t like how it was written, OK, who cares? However, when you make it more than just about the tragedy itself then you are bereft of feelings and good moral character. Sad for you all. Thank you for sharing, Exotic Hikes. That it took me so long to read this is sad. That I read all of the detritus left by those hateful people – sad for them. They garner no good thoughts from me. Keep on hiking!

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