KAUHAJOKI, Finland – The government pledged Wednesday to tighten Finland's gun laws and keep mentally unstable people from obtaining firearms following the country's second school massacre in less than a year.
The move came a day after a 22-year-old gunman opened fire at a vocational college, killing 10 people — including eight female students — before shooting himself in the head.
Police said there was no indication that women were specially targeted, they just made up the majority of students at the Kauhajoki School of Hospitality where Tuesday's massacre took place.
Click here for photos.
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.
"We need to study if people should get access to handguns so freely," Vanhanen told reporters as he visited the college in Kauhajoki, 180 miles northwest of Helsinki. "I'm very, very critical about the guns and during next few months we will make a decision about it."
Interior Minister Anne Holmlund said the government was working on a proposal to restrict gun laws by giving police greater powers to examine gun applicants' health records.
"(Police must) have the best possible information on the state of health of the applicant when deciding on the license," Holmlund said.
Finland has deeply held hunting traditions and ranks — along with the United States — among the top five nations in the world when it comes to civilian gun ownership. After the last massacre, the government had pledged to raise the age for buying a gun from 15 to 18 but never did so.
The government also called Wednesday for an investigation into police handling of the case. After an anonymous tip, police had questioned shooter Matti Saari on Monday about YouTube clips that showed him firing a handgun.
But Saari, a student at the school, was released after questioning because police said they found no reason to hold him.
"We will obviously investigate what the foundation was for the decision to let him keep his weapon," Vanhanen said.
Saari acquired a permit for his weapon, a .22-caliber handgun, in August.
Police were searching for a person who appeared to have filmed some of Saari's YouTube clips but added there was no indication Saari had an accomplice during the shooting.
In an odd twist, police said Saari appeared to have bought his weapon from the same gun store as another school shooter, 18-year-old Pekka-Eric Auvinen, who killed eight people and himself last November in southern Finland.
Police said both attackers appeared bent on inflicting the highest number of casualties possible.
Investigation leader Jari Neulaniemi told Finnish news agency STT that the shootings were so similar that the two gunmen might have been in contact with each other.
"Their actions seems so similar that I would consider it a miracle if we did not find some connecting link," Neulaniemi was quoted as telling STT.
Neulaniemi said that Saari "really went out with the intention of killing."
"He left at home a message saying he wanted to murder as many people as possible. He tried to shoot fatal shots," Neulaniemi said.
Vanhanen and other ministers visited Kauhajoki, a town of 14,000 people, as flags flew at half-staff for a national day of mourning. Grieving residents placed candles and flowers outside the school.
The National Bureau of Investigation said those killed were eight female students, one male teacher and one male student. Doctors said a 21-year-old woman that Saari shot in the head had two operations but was in satisfactory condition Wednesday.
Neulaniemi said there was no indication that Saari had particularly singled out women and added he probably knew all those he killed, since most students were from the local area.
"Most of the students in this institution are female," Neulaniemi said, explaining the high number of women killed.
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. Tuesday and started firing in a classroom. He was dressed all in black and carried a large bag of flammable liquids that were used to start a fire and burn some of the bodies.
A video clip Saari posted on the Internet showed him pointing his gun to the camera and saying "You will die next" before firing four rounds.