IMAGE: STUDENTS AT FINNISH SCHOOL
Peter Dejong  /  AP
Two students comfort one another inside the main entrance to Jokela High School in Tuusela, Finland, on Friday.
updated 11/9/2007 4:05:27 PM ET 2007-11-09T21:05:27

Finland is ready to raise the minimum age for buying firearms from 15 to 18, officials said Friday, as a teenage killer's deadly school rampage brought focus on the hunting-prone nation's gun laws.

"It's obvious that this kind of tragic incident has probably sped up the decision," Interior Ministry spokesman Ilkka Salmi said.

Finland has world's third highest rate of gun ownership behind the United States and Yemen, 15-year-olds can buy guns if parents approve.

A government committee proposed changing the law to prohibit minors from buying guns, although they would still be allowed to use them under parental supervision. It was not immediately clear when the Parliament would vote on the law change, Salmi said.

The United States has an estimated 270 million guns in circulation, about nine for every 10 people, according to the annual Small Arms Survey. Other countries with high per capita gun ownership include Yemen, with 61 small arms per 100 people; Finland with 56; Switzerland with 46; and Iraq with 39, according to the annual Small Arms Survey, a Swiss group based in Geneva.

In southern Finland on Wednesday, an 18-year-old student opened fire in his high school, killing eight people and himself in a shooting spree that stunned the Nordic country.

Pekka-Eric Auvinen, a bullied teenage outcast with radical views, emptied nearly 20 rounds into some of the victims — six students, a school nurse and the principal, police said. He also tried to set the school building on fire before shooting himself in the head.

Finland has previously insisted that 15-year-olds should be allowed to buy guns when discussing firearm rules with other European nations. But now Finland "does now want to oppose" an effort to raise the age limit to 18 that "all other EU countries are ready to accept," Interior Minister Anne Holmlund said.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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