Finland School Shooting: Gunman Planned Massacre for Six Years
Finland's second school shooting in less than a year involved gasoline bombs as well as a handgun, and police say the young gunman had planned it since he was 16. A day before the shooting he had been questioned, and released, for posting violent videos on YouTube.
Matti Juhani Saari had posted clips of himself test-firing weapons on YouTube. Local police questioned him but found he had done nothing wrong.
A Finnish newspaper identified the gunman as Matti Juhani Saari, though police wouldn't release his name because he had no previous criminal record. Authorities were also still identifying the charred bodies of the dead on Wednesday.
Some politicians raised an instant cry for stricter gun laws. Finland ranks third in the world -- behind the United States and Yemen -- in civilian gun ownership as a proportion of the total population. After a similar school massacre in southern Finland late last year, the government said the legal age to buy a gun should be raised from 15 to 18 years. But no law was passed.
"We must considerably tighten (our laws)," Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen told a Norwegian broadcaster on Tuesday. "We should consider whether to allow these small arms for private citizens at home. They belong on firing ranges."
Police described Saari as a loner who had left a number of hate-filled messages -- including videos of himself firing a gun -- on the Internet. He walked into the Palvelualojen-Oppilaitos vocational school at around 11 a.m. on Tuesday, wearing a mask and carrying a bag. He found a room on the basement floor, where a natural science class was in session, and opened fire with a .22 handgun. Whether he aimed at specific students is unclear. The school's janitor, Jukka Forsberg, said he was shot at when he looked out a window. "He fired at me, but I ran zig-zag. I ran for my life."
After the shooting, according to witness reports, Saari set a number of fires in the building with gasoline bombs, then shot himself in the head. He died hours later at a local hospital.
The government called for an investigation of local police because they had questioned Saari on Monday, only a day before the killings, about videos he'd posted on YouTube. The videos showed him aiming his gun at the camera, saying, "You will die next" and firing four rounds. But police said he had broken no laws, and posed no obvious threat to the public.
Finland's interior minister, Anne Holmlund, said on Tuesday: "It's clear that we have to carefully go through what should have been done (by police) and if we could have avoided this situation in some way."
A search of Saari's dorm room showed he had planned the massacre since 2002, when he was 16. He was apparently fascinated by the American students who shot up Columbine High School in 1999. He left behind two handwritten notes, which police spokesman Jari Neulaniemi said they were not prepared to release.
The massacre is reminiscent of a high-school shooting last November in another part of Finland. An 18-year-old gunman, who also had a fascination with Columbine, shot eight people -- and then himself -- after posting violent clips on YouTube.
msm -- with wire reports
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