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.
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In May, EU ministers approved gun legislation, including increased checks on who can own weapons, stricter vetting on who can buy them, and a ban on the purchase of firearms by people under 18. A key aim was to prevent guns getting into the hands of the mentally unstable, according to Arlene McCarthy, chairwoman of the European Union's consumer-protection committee.
"We predicted this, we saw some problems in this area, we tightened up the rules," she said yesterday. Now the member states must "get on with implementing them," and not wait until the 2010 deadline for their introduction across the EU, she said.
Finland has yet to bring its gun laws in line with EU legislation and permits guns to be licensed to 15-year-olds. In November 2007, after another gunman killed eight people and himself at a school in southern Finland, the authorities had said that the minimum age for buying guns would be raised to 18. At the time, the BBC reported that 18-year-old Pekka-Eric Auvinen went on a rampage at his old school after posting a warning video on YouTube. Like Saari, he, too, had obtained a license for his gun.
The shooting happened in Tuusula, some 50km (30 miles) north of Helsinki....
The gunman gave a warning of the attack in a video posted on the internet. The home-made film called "Jokela High School massacre 11/7/2007" shows a young man pointing a gun and declaring himself a "social Darwinist" who would "eliminate all who I see unfit".
Why is it still so ridiculously easy to get a gun in Finland? Anyone aged over 15 and who belongs to a shooting or hunting club can legally own a firearm. It's not unusual to get your first gun as a teenager, especially in the countryside. And military service means 90 per cent of males are able to shoot a gun....
While few homicides in Finland are linked to hunters, or hunting guns, there is a proliferation of small firearms and handguns and the controls surrounding all guns are simply too lax. The police are supposed to vet gun owners before licences are issued, but clearly the system is not working.