Saturday, January 2, 2010

15-Year-Olds Permitted to Carry Guns in Finland

Finland is a country with a long tradition of hunting. Consequently, there're 32 privately owned guns per 100 civilians according to the Finnish Ministry of Interior. Finland has a population of 5.3 million people, out of whom 1.6 million, own guns. An international small arms survey in 2007 showed an averaged total of 2.9 million guns within a population of 5.2 million people. This is scary! A long tradition of hunting has let to Finland ranking among the top 5 countries in the world for civilian gun ownership. Until recently, gun crimes have been rare.

Three gun massacres in recent history - 2007, 2008 and 2009 have prompted politicians, religious leaders and social workers to urge tighter gun laws in the country where 15-year-olds are permitted to own guns if they have parental consent. The loose gun laws in Finland have had devastating consequences.

In November 2007, an 18-year-old went on a gun rampage at his school, in the town of Tuusula. He massacred 7 students, a teacher and shot himself in the head. His name was Pekka-Eric Auvinen. It's worth mentioning that prior to the incident, he posted a video on the internet pledging to "eliminate" those he saw as "unfit".

Less than a year later, in September 2008, a 22-year-old went on a shooting spree at a college, killing 10 people before killing himself. This second massacre caused a lot of outrage and many people (including me) wondered why the young man, Matti Juhani Saari was not stopped before he brought death to a college. He too had posted a video on the internet, showing himself firing a handgun, a few days before the killings. He was even questioned by the police, but his licence was not revoked. Were the authorities negligent? Could the police abort the massacre of September 2008? These are questions yet to be answered.

The massacres didn't stop in 2008! On December 31 2009, a gunman shot and killed 4 people in a crowded shopping centre, after killing his ex-girlfriend at her flat. This is the man!:

Ibrahim Shkupolli, raided a mall in Espoo, Finland, and killed a woman and 3 men. His body was later found at his home. The attack shocked many people who had gone shopping early on New Year Eve. It happened in one of Finland's largest shopping malls - SELLO, at about 10:20 AM.

Stricter rules for permits on pistols and revolvers were introduced in Finland after the 2007 and 2008 massacres. Handgun permits are no longer granted to first-time applicants. First-time applicants must do the following.
  • Train for at least a year at a gun club
  • Have a note from a doctor about their mental health
  • Face an interview with the police
Are the above measures enough to stop gun massacres? Should 15-year-olds be permitted to own guns? More importantly, what should be done to stop a safe and peaceful country like Finland, from degenerating into a "gun-infested" country, famous for gun massacres? I wonder.


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