Saturday, September 27, 2008

Facts and figures about guns in Finland

In the light of the recent mass-murder in Finland, the following facts and figures about Finland's gun laws and gun ownership may be of interest. Despite recent events, Finland is a heavily-armed society with a low rate of gun crime

HIGHLY ARMED: Finland has roughly 1.6 million firearms in private hands. The country's 650,000 licensed gun owners - about 13 percent of the population of 5.2 million - include hunters, practice shooters and gun collectors. In Europe, only Switzerland comes close to Finland in gun ownership: each member of Switzerland's militia army is allowed to keep his gun after completing military service.

RELAXED GUN LAWS: Finland has some of Europe's most relaxed gun laws. The minimum legal age for buying a gun is 15. After a deadly school shooting at Jokela high school last November, the Finnish government vowed to raise the minimum level to 18, but lawmakers and government are still debating legislation. Hunting - a deep-rooted tradition in the sub-Arctic wilderness - and practice shooting are valid reasons to acquire a firearm, but self-defense is not.

REQUIREMENTS: First-time gun owners, members of a shooting club in most cases, are usually granted a license to a .22-caliber pistol. The man responsible for a high school shooting last November had sought to acquire a 9 mm gun, but the application was rejected because the gun was considered too powerful for target practice shooting. A 15-year-old can acquire a shot gun or a rifle for hunting purposes with the consent of an adult.

WEAK OPPOSITION: Calls for tighter gun laws grew after last year's school shooting, but the anti-gun lobby in Finland is still weak. Especially in rural areas, Finns say their hunting traditions justify widespread gun ownership and claim that gun violence is still relatively rare. A government study in 2002 found 14 percent of homicides in Finland are gun-related. In the United States, nearly 67 percent of murders reported to police in the same year were committed with a firearm, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.


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