World News

Finland to toughen gun rules after school shooting

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland said on Friday it would tighten gun policies after an 18-year-old killed six fellow students and two staff members with a handgun this week in the country’s deadliest school shooting.

The Nordic country had resisted European Union plans to limit gun ownership to those 18 years or older across the continent. Finns as young as 15 have had the right to own and use a gun.

“Finland has changed its position to the EU firearms directive,” Finland’s Minister of the Interior, Anne Holmlund, told Reuters in an interview.

She said the permit to buy a gun would be raised to 18 years from 15 years and youths between 15 and 18 could only carry a gun with parental supervision.

Pekka-Eric Auvinen obtained a license for the .22 caliber handgun he used in Wednesday’s massacre through a gun club last month. In Internet postings, he referred to the gun as “Catherine”.

Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen said Finland’s views on gun policy might change after the shooting at Jokela High School, but Holmlund denied the incident was behind the policy shift.

“There is no direct link (to the school shooting). ... It is important that our new position is clear,” Holmlund said.

“We were the only EU member country that was willing to keep its regulations untouched and it was obvious we would be left alone.”

Finland has the world’s third-highest gun ownership per capita. While hunting is a widespread hobby, deadly shootings are rare.

Helsinki gun dealer Petri Oinonen told Reuters he was not surprised by Wednesday’s shooting.

“It was only a question of when this is going to happen, not if it is going to happen,” said Oinonen, a gun salesman at Suomi Ase Osakeyhtio.

Reporting by Sami Torma, Tarmo Virki, Attila Cser; Editing by Caroline Drees