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Focus on gun law after Finland killings

By Sean Crowley
BBC News, Helsinki

A woman lays a candle at the Seinajoki vocational centre
Finland has declared a day of mourning following the shootings

It has been a day of tragedy in Finland as this largely peaceful Nordic nation witnessed the second mass killing at a school in less than a year.

Finnish police have confirmed that 10 people and the gunman died in Tuesday's shooting at the Seinajoki vocational centre in western Finland.

The college, in the small town of Kauhajoki, about 300km (205 miles) north-west of the capital, Helsinki, has around 150 students.

The gunman, Matti Juhani Saari, entered the building at around 1100 local time carrying a Walther P22 pistol and wearing a ski mask.

After randomly shooting students writing an exam, Saari was cornered by armed police.

He died later in hospital from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Bullet wounds

Police said the 22-year-old had left a handwritten note explaining his hatred for the human race and that he had been planning the shooting since 2002.

It is unclear how many people were injured in the incident.

We have experienced a tragic day
Matti Vanhanen,
Finnish Prime Minister

Last November, a student shot eight people dead at a school in the town of Jokela, north of the capital, Helsinki.

This incident in Kauhajoki is eerily reminiscent of those killings, with a similar weapon being used and a similar video being posted on the internet by the suspect prior to the killings.

Police admit they interviewed Saari on Monday in connection with three videos that were posted on the YouTube website last week.

One of the videos shows a young man firing a pistol before pointing the weapon at the camera and declaring in English "you will die next".

But no action was taken by the authorities to confiscate Saari's legally held pistol or to hold him into custody.

Day of mourning

Young people can own and use a firearm in Finland at 15 years of age if they have parental consent.

Gun crime is rare in Finland although shooting is very popular - mainly due to widespread hunting in the country's extensive forests and sub-Arctic wilderness.

At a news conference following an emergency cabinet meeting, Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen told reporters "we have experienced a tragic day".

He expressed his condolences to the families of the victims and declared Wednesday would be a day of mourning with flags to be flown at half-mast.

Although there were calls after the Jokela attack to tighten up Finland's liberal gun laws and strengthen school security, little has been done.

Today's copycat shooting will almost certainly change that.

Mr Vanhanen pledged government action in the aftermath of this latest tragedy in Kauhajoki, but did not specify what new measures the government will put in place.


SEE ALSO
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

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