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Terrorism & Security

Finland school shooting sparks debate over gun ownership

A gunman killed 10 people and himself in the second massacre in a Finnish school in less than a year. The attack comes in the wake of new EU gun legislation.

By Huma Yusuf / September 24, 2008

Flags across Finland are flying at half-mast Wednesday to observe a national day of mourning after a student killed nine fellow students and a teacher at a college in the western town of Kauhajoki, before killing himself. The incident – the second school massacre in less than a year – has sparked a national debate over whether to ban private handguns. Finland currently ranks in the top five worldwide for civilian gun ownership, with roughly 1.6 million firearms circulating among a population of about 5 million.

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According to The Guardian, the school massacre has prompted the Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen to "push for stricter gun laws" and "consider if 'people should get access to handguns so freely.' "

Vanhanen said he was "very critical about the guns and during the next few months we will make a decision about it"....
"We must considerably tighten [gun controls]," Vanhanen said. "We should consider whether to allow these small arms for private citizens at home. They belong on firing ranges."

The shooting also sparked a national conversation about violence. Writing in The Independent, a Finnish journalist argues that the school shooting should prompt introspection at all levels.

Once again Finns are having to ask: what is wrong with us? Where is our society going? Are we doing so shamefully little for unstable members of our communities that they are resorting to extreme violence in this way?
It may come as a surprise to people in Britain, but Finland is quite a violent country.... Violence, both domestic and in the streets, is relatively common. This, I believe, is partly a function of excessive alcohol consumption.
It is perhaps also related to family breakdown, isolation and loneliness. Increased wealth has perhaps made Finland a harsher, more competitive place.

Last year, Slate reported that Finland has the highest murder rate in Western Europe, but those cases – which often result from alcohol or domestic abuse – often involve knives rather than firearms.


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