In Wake of School Shooting, Finland Debates Tougher Laws for Young Offenders

Written by Camilla Jessen

Apr.02 - 2024 2:32 PM CET

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
In the aftermath of a tragic school shooting in Vantaa, Justice Minister Leena Meri calls for a comprehensive reassessment of youth criminal liability.

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According to a recent report by the news agency Ilta-Sanomat, Finnish Justice Minister Leena Meri vocalized her alarm and exasperation following a school shooting incident in Vantaa, investigated by the police as a murder and two attempted murders.

The case, involving a 12-year-old and a licensed handgun, has thrust the issues of gun safety and the mental well-being of young people into the national conversation.

A Community in Shock

"This tells us that our young people are in distress and we need a lot of tools. Such incidents must not happen again, even though there have been some in the past," Meri stated.

Her immediate reaction was one of disbelief and concern, particularly regarding how the young suspect accessed a firearm. "Where did this guy get a gun?" she pondered.

The police investigation revealed that the firearm used was a licensed handgun belonging to a close relative of the suspect, raising questions about the security of weapon storage in homes.

"If he got a gun from one of the home premises, how come they (the cabinets) were not locked? Weapons must be kept behind adult lock combinations. That's for sure," Meri emphasized.

Rethinking Youth Accountability

The distressing event has also prompted Meri to propose a reassessment of the age limit for criminal responsibility. In Finland, individuals under the age of 15 are not currently held criminally responsible, a statute Meri suggests warrants revisitation.

"At least as far as coercive measures are concerned, it should be possible to examine it," she remarked.

Meri's considerations extend to the possibility of introducing more stringent coercive measures for underage offenders, potentially through a framework akin to that of a Child Protection Act type of school home.

"They always say that a 12-year-old does not belong in prison. I don't know if it needs to be a prison for adults, but some sort of restraining coercion... be it in a Child Protection Act type of school home or something. That's not normal in any case," she elaborated.

The call to action by Justice Minister Leena Meri reflects a broader societal imperative to address the root causes of youth violence and the mechanisms through which young individuals access potentially lethal means.