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School shooting prompts Finland to toughen gun laws

Finnish government decided to change gun laws after a student had opened fire in a high school. The minimum age for buying guns will be raised up to 18.

A government committee proposed changing the law to prohibit minors from buying guns, although they would still be allowed to use them under parental supervision, the Interior Ministry said.

It was not immediately clear when the Parliament would vote on the law change, ministry spokesman Ilkka Salmi said.

In Finland, which has the third highest rate of gun ownership in Europe, 15-year-olds can currently buy guns if their parents approve.

An 18-year-old student opened fire in his high school in southern Finland on Wednesday, killing eight people and himself in a shooting spree that stunned the Nordic country.

Pekka-Eric Auvinen, a bullied teenage outcast with radical views, emptied nearly 20 rounds into some of the victims six students, a school nurse and the principal, police said. He also tried to set the school building on fire before shooting himself in the head.

The massacre has drawn international attention to the high rate of gun ownership in Finland. Only the United States and Yemen have more guns per capita, according to the Small Arms Survey based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Finland has some 650,000 licensed gun owners, about 13 percent of the population of 5.2 million, many of them hunters, the Interior Ministry said.

Salmi said the government had mulled raising the age limit for gun purchase for months but suggested the shooting at Jokela High School in Tuusula, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Helsinki, had moved the process forward.

"It's obvious that this kind of tragic incident has probably sped up the decision," Salmi said.

Finland had previously insisted on keeping an age limit of 15 years for gun purchases in discussions with other European nations on a new EU directive on firearms acquisitions.

"As all other EU countries are ready to accept the age limit of 18 years for the acquisition of firearms ... Finland does not want to oppose the said amendment to the directive under the circumstances," Interior Minister Anne Holmlund said in a statement.

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