Page last updated at 12:23 GMT, Wednesday, 24 September 2008 13:23 UK

Angry Finland focuses on gun laws

By Steve Rosenberg
BBC News, Kauhajoki

A hoarding showing the front page of a Finnish national newspaper with the headline 'Miksi' (Why?) in Kauhajoki, western Finland
'Miksi' (Why?) was Wednesday's headline on two Finnish newspapers

Finns have heard it all before - authorities promising to tighten the laws on gun control.

They heard it last year, after an 18-year-old student went on a shooting spree in a Finnish high school.

And they have been hearing it again since Matti Saari killed nine of his colleagues and one teacher in a vocational school here in Kauhajoki.

Finland's prime minister has already called for tighter gun controls. But will they be introduced?

Still reeling from the tragedy, the mayor of Kauhajoki, Antti Rantakokko, has told the BBC he supports a change of law that would make it harder for young people in Finland to get access to guns.

"It's important to change the law," the mayor told me. "Why do those young people need those guns?"

Liberal laws

In Finland, the law permits 15-year-olds to buy guns if they have parental consent.

All gun owners are required to have a licence
Minimum age for buying a gun is 15
About 14% of homicides in Finland are gun-related

That is one example of what makes Finnish gun laws among the most liberal in the world.

In the past, those advocating tighter gun controls came up against a wall of historical and cultural opposition: Finland has a long tradition of hunting and the hunting lobby has been keen not to restrict Finns' access to weapons.

But the Kauhajoki massacre may be changing the picture.

There is a growing sense of anger here that gunman Matti Saari was released by police the day before his shooting spree, or that police officers did not consider his violent video on YouTube dangerous enough to remove his gun licence.

There is a feeling here that gun control in Finland is spiralling out of control and that changes are needed.

DNA tests

Meanwhile, dramatic new details of what happened inside the vocational school have emerged.

A Finnish flag flies at half-mast at the Kauhajoki college
The Finnish flag has been flying at half-mast outside the Kauhajoki college

Police chiefs said fires which had raged inside the building after the shooting had left the bodies of nine of the 10 victims unidentifiable.

Now, DNA tests and dental records will be used to help identify the dead.

In an interview with the BBC, Chief Superintendent Urpo Lintala despaired: "What can we do? What can we do?"

"Well, tighten your gun laws for a start," I replied.

"Maybe, maybe," replied the officer. "Maybe that would be a first step."

Finnish college gunman kills 10
23 Sep 08 |  Europe
In pictures: Finnish school shooting
23 Sep 08 |  In Pictures
Profile: Finnish school suspect
23 Sep 08 |  Europe
Timeline of school shootings
23 Sep 08 |  Special Reports

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