After Aaron Ybarra's deadly assault at Seattle Pacific University in June, some wondered why the suicidal, psychotic 27-year-old was allowed to have a gun in the first place, says the Seattle Times. Ybarra had a well-documented history of mental illness: homicidal fantasies, emergency-room visits for alcohol poisoning, two brief involuntary commitments and a professed admiration for one of the Columbine High School mass murderers. Ybarra and his weapons were perfectly legal in Washington state. (Ybarra shot three students, killing one; an arsenal of eight guns was found once at his family home.)
He had never been involuntarily committed to a mental-health facility for at least 14 days, the time required by the state before adding someone's name to the national database of people barred from possessing guns. Nor was Ybarra a felon, another disqualifying condition. His case highlights the inadequacies of a background-check system that worked as designed but still resulted in tragedy. It also has restarted an election-year debate about whether the state is doing enough to keep weapons from those who are violent, dangerous and mentally ill.