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Santtu Hakala/AP
A police officer stands in front of a school building in Kauhojoki, Finland, the scene of a
shooting this morning.

School Shooting in Finland Leaves 11 Dead

September 23, 2008 11:21 AM
by Josh Katz
A gunman in Finland killed 10 adult students and then himself, drawing comparisons to a similar school shooting last year and renewing Finland’s gun debate.
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A gunman reported to be wearing a ski mask and carrying an automatic weapon opened fire at the vocational Kauhojoki School of Hospitality in western Finland this morning, killing nine people, according to The New York Times. However, the The Australian quotes local police chief Urpo Lintala giving a higher number of casualties: “Now the number of dead is 10 and the shooter has died. That means 11 people have died,” he said.

The shootings started just before 11 a.m. local time (0800GMT), the Associated Press reports. After firing on the students, who were taking an exam, the gunman turned the weapon on himself.
 
Authorities have provided few details about the gunman—identified as Matti Juhani Saariby by a Finnish tabloid—confirming only that he was enrolled in the school and that he was born in 1986.

A day earlier, police had questioned the gunman because of several YouTube posts depicting him firing a gun and comparing life to a “war.” There was not enough evidence for the police to hold him or even revoke his gun license, however. The gunman reputedly created four YouTube videos, with the 1999 Columbine school shootings on the list of his most favorite videos. The BBC provides a clip of one of his posted videos.

Tuesday’s shooting has similarities to another school shooting in Finland about a year ago. In that incident, 18-year-old Pekka-Eric Auvinen killed six students, the nurse and school principal and then shot himself in the head after describing his intentions on YouTube.

The shooting caused a debate in Finland, a country known for its gun culture, about the accessibility of guns. The country ultimately opted not to drastically change its gun laws, but said it would raise the minimum age for purchasing guns from 15 to 18.

According to The New York Times, “Some 1.6 million weapons are registered as being in private hands in a country with a population of some 5.3 million.” Finland also comes in third behind the United States and Yemen in terms of civilian gun ownership, the AP reports.
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