Finland Restricts Gun Permits After Deadly School Shooting | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 04.10.2008
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Finland Restricts Gun Permits After Deadly School Shooting

Finland has moved to restrict gun permits following a deadly school shooting, with further calls for a toughening of the country's gun laws.

Candles are seen lit near the Kauhajoki vocational high school in Kauhajoki, western Finland

Finland wants to prevent another deadly shooting like the one in Kauhajoki

The Finnish government has given new directives to the country's police, restricting access to gun permits.

All new applicants for handgun licenses will now have to show they've been active members of a gun club for one year.

They will also be required to provide a note from a doctor about their mental health, and sit an interview with at least two police officers.

The rules cover permits for pistols and revolvers of all sizes, and permits will have time limits.

Finnish Interior Minister Anne Holmlund has set up a panel to look at the country's gun laws.

School rampage raised concerns

Last month's school shooting in the western town of Kauhajoki has led to calls for a tightening of gun laws in Finland.

Holmlund wants police to have more access to the health data of gun owners, and has even floated the idea of banning certain types of weapons altogether.

The government has acted quickly to change the restrictions on gun permits, but a complete overhaul of Finland's gun laws is expected to take more than two years.

Holmlund is trying to push the first round of reforms through parliament by early next year.

People lay candles near the Kauhajoki vocational high school in Kauhajoki, western Finland

Kauhajoki still grieves but life is returning to normal

Nine students and one teacher were killed on Sept. 23 when 22-year-old Matti Juhani Saari opened fire in the Kauhajoki Vocational School. He then shot himself in the head and later died from his injuries.

The shooting was similar to an attack on another school last November, when a student killed eight people and himself.

The Finnish government had promised to review gun laws following that shooting, but no changes were made.

The Interior Ministry says there are 1.6 million registered weapons owned by about 650,000 people.

Long hunting tradition

The Swiss-based International Arms Survey estimates that there are 45 guns for every 100 citizens in Finland.

That puts Finland in fourth place in terms of civilian firearm possession, behind the United States, Yemen and Switzerland.

Despite the large number of guns, Finland has not seen the rate of gun crime that occurs in the United States.

Finland has a long tradition of hunting and many gun owners use their weapons for that purpose.

In the small town of Kauhajoki, staff and students at the vocational school have been offered talks and counseling to cope with their grief.

A memorial service was held last weekend, and candles were lit to commemorate those who died.

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