Tougher gun laws in Finland after killings

Finland has toughened its gun laws, increasing the age limit for handgun licences and tightening gun ownership rules after young gunmen killed nearly 20 people in shooting sprees over the past four years.

The killings prompted public pressure for increased gun control in this country of avid hunters, which has one of the highest gun ownership rates in the world.

Under the new measures, applicants for a handgun licence must be at least 20 years old and prove active involvement in shooting as a sport or for hunting.

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Licence holders must also prove every five years that they remain actively involved in shooting as a hobby. Some applicants aged 15-18 could be granted a special permit for rifles and shotguns if a guardian is licenced.

"This will significantly restrict the availability of handgun licences compared to the current situation," said Mika Lehtonen, project manager at the ministry of the interior's police department.

With 1.6 million guns in circulation in 2009 in a population of 5.3 million, Finland ranks fourth in the world for gun ownership.

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