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Mr Saari

By now most of the world has heard the terrible news about a massacre in the Finnish town of Kauhajoki by Matti Saari and how it seems to be a copycat of the Jokela shootings in 2007. Both were young men turning handguns on their fellow students, both posted on YouTube and both invoked metal music in their messages to the outside world. There are reports that both men may have even bought their weapons from the same store and there are calls to reduce handgun ownership in Finland.

Several news stories have followed the Associated Press story which says that Finland has 'deep-rooted hunting traditions' and ranks among the top five nations in the world in civilian gun ownership per capita after the US and Yemen. These statistics (as in the case of Yemen and Finland) are distorted in small populations, but the access to guns is obviously an important issue.

But in all the times I've been to Finland I've never seen a handgun or hunting rifle. What I have seen are a lot of depressed and confused men. Divorcees in bars, sad stories of losing their jobs or not getting to see their kids and lots of alcoholism (booze has become Finland's no.1 killer). The Jokela gunman, Pekka-Eric Auvinen, was on anti-depressants and Saari (which in Finnish means 'island') articulated misanthropic and anti-social messages before committing his crimes. Both young men were isolated.

Rather than getting tough on gun control or YouTube posts, perhaps Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen should look at why young men are turning against their society. Why is that young men are finding the only way they can communicate is through guns, metal music and macho YouTube clips? But this is a much bigger question than a headline can hold.

A few emails from friends in Finland have talked about the prevailing mood - one described it as 'murky' and another pointed to 'male culture' as a cause of the events. Perhaps saddest of all was an overheard conversation on a tram where a 6 year-old boy who was asking his mother what to do if a gunman came into his school or came in through their balcony. His mother had no answers.