Violence involving Firearms not Unique to American Schools and Communities

As an article in the Guardian pointed out this morning, violent crimes involving the use of firearms by criminals is not unique to the United States.  The article described as shooting by an 18-year-old man in Finland yesterday.  The man murdered one person and wounded another eight victims in a shooting spree in a southern Finnish town, according to police.

The man was taken into custody near the town of Hyvinkaa, approximately five hours according to Detective Chief Inspector Markku Tuominen.

The suspect who was reported to be a local man from Hyvinkaa. Hyvinkaa is about thirty miles from the capital, Helsinki.  The article pointed out that there have also been school shootings in Finland in recent years.  In 2008, a culinary student killed nine fellow students and a teacher before killing himself at a vocational school in Kauhajoki. About a year prior, an 18-year-old student murdered six students, a school nurse and the principal at a high school in Tuusula.

In another more recent incident two months ago, a non-student wounded the father of his former girlfriend in an office building before firing several shots through a classroom door at a junior high school but did not injure anyone in the school shooting incident.

These incidents along with school homicides in schools in many other countries including England, Canada, Australia, Japan, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Israel and the People’s Republic of China illustrate that school homicides are not a uniquely American phenomenon.

The means of attack may vary from one country to another due to gun control measures and societal differences.  For example, a man used a military flame thrower to kill a number of children in an elementary school in Germany.  School attacks in Vietnam, which has strict firearms laws, usually involve edged weapons or acid thrown on a victim’s face.  In Japan, which prohibits civilian firearms ownership, attacks have traditionally involved knives and swords but multiple victim killing sprees have occurred in schools there as well.  Though a student or non-student who is caught with a firearm is subject to swift execution, there have been a series deadly school shootings in the People’s Republic of China and two mass stabbing attacks at elementary schools involving more than two dozen victims each.

The per capita rate of school shootings appears to be fairly similar in Canadian and American Schools even though gun ownership and registration are much more restricted in Canadian schools than in U.S. schools.  In both countries, school shootings are still relatively rare in relation to assaults with other types of weapons, particularly knives which appear to account for the majority of school weapons assaults by students globally.

Though there are numerous cultural factors and sometimes significant differences in overall risk levels, it is safe to say that there are few if any regions in the world where school violence is not a periodic factor.  Having worked 45 states as well as Mexico, Central America, Canada, Europe, Asia, South Africa and the Middle East, I have yet to work in a country where school violence has not been problem.


About Michael Dorn

Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a non-profit school safety center. The author of 27 books on school safety, Michael’s campus safety work has taken him to 11 countries over the past 34 years.