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After deadly Troutdale attack, Toppenish plan sounds smarter

A student and his mother hug after being reunited following Tuesday's school shooting in Troutdale, Oregon.
A student and his mother hug after being reunited following Tuesday's school shooting in Troutdale, Oregon.
Photo by Natalie Behring/Getty Images

Oregon investigators are still trying to sort out the details of Tuesday morning’s fatal school shooting at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, the second Pacific Northwest incident in less than a week, leaving one student and the gunman dead, and a second student in big trouble for having a gun that was not connected to the shooting.

Suddenly, yesterday’s announcement by school officials in Toppenish, near Yakima that this coming fall, some school administrators will be armed does not seem like such a bad idea. Under this new policy, at least 11 administrators who take 16 hours or training, undergo a background check and have a concealed pistol license will be armed in various Toppenish schools.

It is not likely that anyone will acknowledge that this move follows the much-maligned advice from the National Rifle Association 18 months ago that schools do this to thwart nutballs with guns and a perceived grudge. One week after the Sandy Hook tragedy that NRA’s Wayne LaPierre observed, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

At this point, the Oregon shooter has not been identified, nor has anyone identified the type of gun he used, other than that it was a rifle. KOIN in Portland reported Tuesday afternoon that authorities say the shooter was a student at the school. Authorities in Troutdale confirmed late Tuesday afternoon that the victim was 14-year-old Emilio Hoffman, a freshman at the school.

All of this happened as alleged Seattle Pacific University gunman Aaron Ybarra was being charged in King County Superior Court with first-degree murder in the death of student Paul Lee. He has also been charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder and with assault.

The shotgun Ybarra allegedly used in the attack last Thursday was a common 12-gauge Browning double-barrel over-and-under shotgun, but according to the charging documents, one of the gun’s two firing mechanisms apparently malfunctioned. Thus, the shotgun became a single-shot and had to be broken open and re-loaded after each shot. In all, only three or four shots were fired before Ybarra was pepper-sprayed and tackled by student monitor John Meis, who has become the hero of that incident.

That shotgun as legally purchased some years ago. Ybarra, with a history of mental problems, was never involuntarily committed long enough for the law to kick in that would have flagged his name on any background check. In Washington State a person must be involuntarily committed for more than 14 days.

According to the charging documents, Ybarra allegedly told investigators that he had scouted the SPU building in advance. He was looking for escape routes and spoke with several students and one school employee.

Meanwhile, in Oregon, police conducting a sweep of the school discovered a second student who was armed. Police officials told a noon news conference that this violation was not connected to the shooting. So far, no motive has been established for the fatal attack and it is not clear whether the unidentified gunman was taken down by school resource officers or he took his own life.

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