Last weekend was a bloody weekend for Finland: again there was a young man shooting randomly at people. Two 18 year-olds, man and woman, died in the shooting, and 7 more were badly injured. The tragedy happened in Hyvinkää, not far from Helsinki. In the past years there has been some such shootings at schools and at malls, and always the shooter has been a young man. Most of them have shot themselves after the murders, not this last one though; he has been already in court and even feels sorry for what he did. Big comfort for the families of the victims.
There has been lots of discussion in the media about what is wrong in Finnish society for these awful things to be happening, and many theories have been presented. One of them holds responsible of the shooting the increasing number of young men being left out in society: they do not study or work, they drift into a state of passive nothingness. A friend child and youth psychiatrist told me recently that there are shockingly more psychologically troubled young men still in their teens than there were 20 years ago. She said something has happened to provoke this change, but she doesn't know what.
I've heard a few times from cosmopolitan Finnish thinkers that Finnish society is really sick, much sicker than others, and the proof is this sort of shootings going on. Shootings do happen elsewhere too, but it's true that maybe less in Southern European countries than in Finland (OK, I am not taking in account Italian mafia shootings, that's a case apart). The USA is probably the most famous shooting-randomly-at-strangers-or-schoolmates country in the world, but maybe Finland is quite famous for this too, sadly.
The statistics of 2007 state that Finland has about 1.6 million registered guns. 60% of them are for hunting purposes, the rest I suppose are for sports purposes, army- and police-owned as it is prohibited in Finland to have guns for self-defence motives. 12% of Finns have guns, and the police estimate that there are somewhat more than 10.000 illegal guns. These are 5 year-old statistics, so add a few and we will be close to current facts (I couldn't find any fresher info in the Web). Does the amount of guns explain the shooting? Would a tighter gun-law avoid shootings? These are questions that the head of the police is asking himself.
In 1999 about 200 men died as victims of violence in Finland, this includes suicide. Finland has the highest levels of violent deaths amongst men in so called wealthy Europe. In Finland there is more violence done to strangers, and less to friends or family. In Southern Europe, on the contrary, there is more violence amongst family members and friends, especially inside couples, (more passion murders, I suppose), and less murders happening between people who do not know each other.
So, what does all this tell us? Is Finland a sicker society than say Spanish society (the other one I know closely)? I doubt it. I am afraid all societies are just as sick, but they manifest their sickness in slightly different ways, some murder their wives, others strangers. Not nice in neither case. Men tend to be more violent than women, could this be because women talk more or are motherly? I don't know. The roots of violence are too deep and complicated, and the factors pushing a person to shoot randomly at strangers or to assassin a girlfriend or a wife are so multiple that we will probably never be able to pin them down, so it is not an easy task for decision makers to create new laws which could diminish murders.
Human beings have always murdered. In the olden days the news did not reach everybody fast like today. Till very recently it was total taboo in Spain, for example, to talk publicly of incest, nobody spoke of it, so it didn't happen, right? Is society sicker today than 50 years ago? Maybe these horrifying shootings were very rare 50 years ago, but I wouldn't be surprised if the same amount of murders happened then too (oh, I haven't checked the statistics!) It's a sad business.
In the midst of my uncertainty, I am certain that the media should not give so much space and protagonism to these murderers. The limelight might be an inciter to some murderers still in larva-state. Let's not encourage them.