Proposal presented to tighten Finnish handgun laws

Helsinki - Finnish handgun laws are to be tightened, with more provisions planned to screen people applying for a handgun license, according to draft legislation released Wednesday.

The measures presented by the Interior Ministry were to be subject for review by various agencies and other groups.

There have been calls for tighter handgun laws in the wake of two school shootings in recent years. The most recent shooting, in September 2008 at a trade school in Kauhajoki, in western Finland, claimed 11 lives.

The gunmen in both school shootings bought handguns after briefly being member of shooting clubs.

In future, the Interior Ministry proposal would require appplicants to be at least 20 years old and have "practised shooting, as a member of a shooting club, actively for at least two years" before receiving a handgun permit.

An application would require a certificate issued by a firearms trainer, who would also need to meet standards set by the ministry. A first-time permit would be limited to five years, at most.

The proposal would also allow police to get more background information on an applicant's health and their use of alcohol or drugs.

In November 2008, some 57,000 people signed an online petition calling for tighter gun laws.

Interior Ministry estimates suggest there are 1.6 million registered weapons, mainly for hunting, owned by about 650,000 people in Finland. (dpa)