2007-11-11

Gun law proposals

Inevitably the subject of Finnish gun laws has been brought up in the aftermath of the Jokela school shootings. This morning Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen weighed in:

Vanhanen said that the possibility that hand guns should be kept at sports clubs and target ranges, and not allowed to be taken into the home should be considered.

Other proposals I've seen include a requirement to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and an obligatory waiting time of a month or two before getting one's first gun permit.

Since the discussion is clearly motivated by Jokela, it's worth considering what sort of restrictions on gun ownership would have prevented this tragedy. For example, the proposed EU directive which would limit gun ownership by those under 18 years old - and which Finland used to oppose - wouldn't have prevented the Jokela shooter, Pekka-Eric Auvinen, from buying a handgun, since he was over 18.

Whether Auvinen could have passed a psychiatric evaluation is something I don't know; obviously if he was honest about his views and feelings, he couldn't have done so, but he might have had enough self-control to hide his problems. It seems to me that he got his gun specifically to carry out his murders, so he would have had a reason to misrepresent his inner life to a psychiatrist.

Having written all that, naturally law changes that couldn't have stopped Auvinen might still serve to save lives.

3 comments:

TH said...

Auvinen used antidepressants, so a requirement of psychiatric evaluation would almost certainly have prevented him from getting a gun.

Ari said...

I have to admit I'm not quite sure what can and can't be done in such an evaluation. Could a psychiatrist find out that someone else has prescribed medication? Would it show up on tests?

th said...

It could work the same way as how the criminal record of prospective teachers of children is checked: the applicant acquires an official certificate proving that he or she has not been convicted of e.g. sexual crimes. Similarly, a prospective gun owner would get a certificate from health officials/Kela that he or she is not suffering from some medical condition that makes it dangerous to own guns.