Source AP ©

Finland suffers second deadly school shooting in less than one year

Finland's prime minister called for stricter gun laws Wednesday as investigators revealed that the 22-year-old gunman who killed eight women and two men was bent on executing as many victims as possible before killing himself.

The slaughter Tuesday at the Kauhajoki School of Hospitality was Finland's second deadly school shooting in less than a year.

Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen said it was time to consider restricting access to guns in a country with more than 1.6 million firearms in private hands. Finland has deeply held hunting traditions and ranks - along with the United States - in the top five nations in the world when it comes to civilian gun ownership.

"After this kind of behavior, my personal opinion is that we need to study if people should get access to handguns so freely," Vanhanen told reporters in Kauhajoki, 180 miles (290 kilometers) northwest of Helsinki. "I'm very, very critical about the guns and during next few months we will make a decision about it."

Solemnly leading his nation in a day of mourning, Vanhanen and other ministers visited Kauhajoki, a town of 14,000 people, as flags flew at half-staff. Grieving residents placed candles and flowers outside the school.

Investigators confirmed the shooter was Matti Saari, a student at the school who was questioned by police a day before the attack about YouTube clips showing him firing a handgun. Saari was released Monday because police said they found no reason to keep him in custody.

His release prompted the government to call for an investigation into police handling of the case.

"It was a good and an important thing that the police got these hints in advance and that they reacted to the hints and the person was interviewed," Vanhanen said. "We will obviously investigate what the foundation was for the decision to let him keep his weapon."

The National Bureau of Investigation said all the women victims were students, while one of the men was a teacher and the other was a student. Saari also shot another female student in the head before shooting himself in the head.

That 21-year-old woman had two operations overnight but doctors said she was in satisfactory condition Wednesday.

"He really went out with the intention of killing," investigation leader Jari Neulaniemi said. "He left at home a message saying he wanted to murder as many people as possible. He tried to shoot fatal shots."

Police spokesman Urpo Lintula said Saari had acquired a permit for his weapon, a .22-caliber handgun, in August.

"With this weapon and plenty of ammunition, he came into the school yesterday morning and he also had a largish bag which apparently had flammable liquids or something to start fires," Lintula said.

Witnesses said panic erupted at the school, which offers courses in catering, tourism, nursing and home economics, as the masked gunman entered just before 11 a.m. and started firing in a classroom where students were taking an exam.

The rampage bore eerie similarities to another school massacre in Finland last year in which an 18-year-old gunman killed eight people and himself. Both gunmen posted violent clips on YouTube prior to the shootings, were fascinated by the 1999 Columbine school shootings in Colorado and died after shooting themselves in the head.

A video clip posted on the Internet by the alleged gunman showed him pointing his gun to the camera and saying "You will die next" before firing four rounds.

After last year's massacre, the government promised to raise the minimum age for buying a gun from 15 to 18, but that legislation was never passed. That change would not have stopped either of the recent school shooters, who were 18 and 22 years old.