A Brief History
On September 23, 2008, a Finnish murderer proved that mass shootings do occur in other “civilized” countries outside the United States, and you do NOT need a military looking or high powered weapon to commit such a heinous act. The perpetrator, only 22 years old, was ironically a “Hospitality Management” student at the Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences in Kauhajoki, Finland. (Note: Finland has much more restrictive gun laws than the US. Click the Finland link for more information.) The shootings took place at a university, meaning the mass shooting was also in fact a “school shooting,” proving that America has no monopoly on this particular sort of crime, either.
Actually, the world is full of such examples of mass shootings and school mass murders, both shooting and edged weapon attacks. In the Kauhajoki Shooting, Matti Juhani Saari used a .22 Long Rifle caliber pistol, one of the weakest firearms available. No need for an “assault weapon” or “high powered” weapon for this mentally disturbed young man to sow murder and havoc. In addition to the 10 people Saari murdered, he also shot himself (fatally) and wounded another 11 victims.
Matti Saari not only armed himself with his pistol, he also brought some homemade Molotov Cocktails to the massacre, and also used those, causing some of the victims whom he had shot to suffer badly marred corpses, as well as starting several fires around the school. When police arrived minutes later, Saari also shot at them before shooting himself in the head after evading police for some time. When police finally found Saari again, Saari had already shot himself, but was still alive, later dying at the local hospital. Police response was hampered by the smoke and fire from Saari’s firebombs. One of the victims was a teacher that had tried to bar the door to his classroom and was killed trying to save his students. The other 9 victims that had been killed were students, 8 females and 1 male.
Saari had been recently kicked out of the Finnish army in 2006 for failure to obey orders and was reported to have been the victim of bullying in school. Saari also is reported to have been a psychiatric patient and to have been obsessed with firearms, perhaps as a way to compensate for his social weaknesses. Acquaintances described Saari as “weird” and a psychiatrist deemed him to be suffering from “avoidant personality disorder and later possibly schizotypal personality disorder.” He was also reported to be a heavy drinker and alcohol abuser.
Sadly, the sort of profile presented by Saari seems to be typical of bitter, bullied and socially awkward people that become mass shooters. Throw in the fascination with guns, and someone should have raised a “red flag!” This case is exactly the type of case we implore out readers to study and to report anyone they believe may present a danger to themselves or others to appropriate authorities.
Ah, but someone did raise a red flag! An anonymous tipster called the police and reported his concerns about Saari, including the future gunman’s fascination with the Columbine school shooting and an associated video on YouTube concerning that event. Police took the information seriously, and visited Saari at his home, including searching the residence. Saari had legally purchased his pistol and was licensed to own the firearm. Apparently, background checks and licensing is not enough to prevent such a massacre! Another video of concern showed Saari pointing his pistol toward the camera and shooting in that direction, saying, “”You will die next.” And we mean exactly that, as for some reason he spoke those words in English instead of Finnish. Police said after the shooting that they would have indeed detained Saari before the shooting had they been aware of this video and the wealth of other information presented to them after the incident. Police authorities resolved to monitor YouTube for indications of other persons that might present a danger of similar actions.
School shootings or murders of any type are horrendous and a terrible thing, but in the big picture this sort of crime is only a tiny, tiny part of the danger to school children. Other dangers such as automobile accidents present a far greater threat to our kids. In fact, automobile accidents are the leading cause of death for American children, although firearms do rank as the second or third leading cause of death among children, depending on what source is cited. The firearm statistic, however, is not indicative of mass shootings, which account for a tiny fraction of those deaths. Many of the firearms deaths are suicides (38%), and most of the rest are murders (53%) and accidents (9%) that occur outside of school.
Sadly, we have reported about historical incidents of attacks on school children before, both by firearms in places outside of the United States as well as non-firearm attacks both in the US and in other countries. Did you know the worst school massacre in US History was a bombing incident in 1927? Other foreign mass shootings and murders also indicate the problem is anything but uniquely American. (Do not let those with an agenda fool you!)
The bitter helplessness we feel every time we suffer an outrage against our senses such as a school massacre or any sort of mass shooting should not result in a knee-jerk reaction of forcing through legislation or regulation that has nothing to do with preventing such crimes. Background checks? How many such incidents would have been stopped by “enhanced” background checks? Few or even less than few. We advocate for citizens to report people that demonstrate a possibility of harm to themselves or others and for a change in the way we define mental illness/incapacity for the purpose of refusing permission to own, possess or purchase a firearm. Perhaps a temporary ban pending timely appeal or something, including a regular well publicized method of reporting concerns and a regulated response by authorities. Or not, as some civil rights activists may believe such actions potentially infringe on the rights of citizens. The subject needs to be debated! What we do not want to see are useless regulations that affect law abiding citizens and have no effect on criminals.
Question for students (and subscribers): What do you think could prevent the next school shooting? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Hillstrom, Laurie. School Shootings and the Never Again Movement. ABC-CLIO, 2019.
Schildkraut, Jaclyn and H.J. Elsass. Mass Shootings: Media, Myths, and Realities. Praeger, 2016.
Seierstad, Asne. One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway — and Its Aftermath. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by Roquai of Kauhajoen koti- ja laitostalousoppilaitos school few hours after Kauhajoki shooting incident, has been released into the public domain worldwide by the copyright holder of this work.