NEWS

Gunman Murders 9, Then Shoots Self at Finnish School

By Matthew Harwood

A ski-mask-wearing man, clad in black, murdered nine students this morning at an adult vocational school in western Finland and then shot himself in the head.

The gunman is still alive and doctors are treating him for a bullet wound to his head at Tampere University Hospital.

The 22-year old suspect, according to police, walked into the school near the Finnish town of Kauhajoki around 11 a.m. and began firing what witnesses say was a semi-automatic handgun.


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Presently, nine students are dead. About 150 students, teachers, and staff members were evacuated from the school, part of the campus of the Seinajoki Vocational Training Center. A fire had been set in another area of the school, which firefighters extinguished. Police are also investigating a bomb threat made against a nearby building.

The BBC reports that police had interviewed the suspect yesterday, after they became aware of disturbing videos posted on YouTube.com by the suspected gunman.

One video shows the suspect, again clad in black, firing a semi-automatic handgun at what appears to be a firing range. The suspect never addresses the camera, but the Associated Press reports that the video came with a message: "Whole life is war and whole life is pain. And you will fight alone in your personal war." (It looks like YouTube.com has moved quickly to remove the video from its Web site.)

The suspect's favorite videos on YouTube.com included clips of the infamous 1999 Columbine High School shootings.

"Police were aware of this and spoke to him on Monday, September 22," Interior Minister Anne Holmlund said. "However, the police officer on duty decided there was no need to terminate his gun license."

This is the second school shooting on a Finnish campus over the past year. On November 7, 2007, Pekka-Eric Auvinen, an 18-year-old high school student police say was bullied, murdered 8 people at his high school in southern Finland.

The incident led to public debate about increasing the age for gun ownership from 15 to 18, but the government rejected any dramatic change to the country's gun laws.

According to Bloomberg.com:

Finland has the most guns per capita in Europe, a total of 1.8 million firearms outside of army use in a country of 5.3 million people, according to Amnesty International. That is the third-highest rate in the world after the U.S. and Yemen. Any adult can own a gun if it is registered with a shooting club.

The ability to bear arms is culturally ingrained in Finland, according to the Associated Press, "with deep-rooted traditions of hunting in the sub-Arctic wilderness."

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