Calls for Interior Minister to resign; Katainen backs Holmlund
National Police Commissioner ready to ban semi-automatic handguns
The head of the ministerial group of the National Coalition Party, Minister of Finance Jyrki Katainen, said on Thursday during parliamentary question time that Minister of the Interior Anne Holmlund has his full support.
Katainen was responding to a question by Anneli Lapintie, chairwoman of the Parliamentary group of the Left Alliance. Lapintie asked if Katainen “has the backbone to change a minister who did not start amending weapons legislation in time”.
Katainen said that he does not know himself how weapons legislation should be changed, but that changes are needed. Holmlund said on Wednesday that proposals for new weapons legislation would be brought before Parliament by next spring at the latest.
Opposition Social Democratic Party Parliamentary group leader Tarja Filatov asked what the government has done after the Jokela school killings last year.
In response, Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre) mentioned the establishment of a board of inquiry. The work of the board remains unfinished.
He said that the board is conducting a new kind of investigation, in which the methods employed by investigations of major accidents are taken into use in addition to regular police work. A bill for a so-called Jokela law is currently before Parliament.
Interior Minister Holmlund said that a number of methods have been instituted to monitor the Internet.
In her response to Filatov, Holmlund said that new instructions have been given to police on criteria for granting firearms permits, and the necessary training. The changes in gun permit criteria were, in fact, initiated before the Jokela shootings, and it had been under preparation at the Ministry of the Interior for a couple of years.
Social Services Minister Paula Risikko responded to Filatov, saying that after Jokela, work on developing mental health services for children and young people has been stepped up.
Meanwhile, National Police Commissioner Mikko Paatero said at a press conference in Parliament on Thursday that he would like to see semi-automatic handguns banned completely. He noted that such weapons are hardly ever used in sports shooting.
Speaking at the same event, Minister of the Interior Anne Holmlund (Nat. Coalition Party) said that she would not want to go that far yet.
“We need to find a way that would not cause unreasonable difficulties for shooting hobbyists”, Holmlund said, commenting on ongoing work for future firearms legislation.
Holmlund also opposes the idea that guns used for target practice would be stored at shooting ranges. In her view, such an idea is very Helsinki-centred. She notes that many firing ranges in different parts of Finland are not equipped for the safe storage of weapons.
She is also unwilling to consider banning such ranges.
Answering a question of whether or not everyone in Finland should have a possibility to engage in shooting as a sport, Holmlund noted said: “after all, guns do not kill anyone”, perhaps inadvertently paraphrasing a slogan of the US National Rifle Association.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Government wants to restrict access to handguns (25.9.2008)
Prime Minister open to ban on private possession of handguns (24.9.2008)