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Kauhajoki School Shooting on 23 September 2008

On 23 September 2008, a school shooting took place in Kauhajoki when a student in the local polytechnic entered his school, shot nine students in his study group, a teacher, and finally himself. The perpetrator carried fuel with him which he used to start several fires in the building. Of the students who were in the classroom when the incident took place, three survived, one of whom received a gunshot wound in the head. The psychosocial damage caused by the incident was considerable.

An investigation commission was appointed to look into the incident and its background, as well as the activities of the authorities, other operators involved in the incident, and the media. The main results of the investigation are presented in the 28 conclusions and 9 recommendations included in the report. The purpose of the recommendations and the entire investigation process was to enhance general security by learning from the incident.

The fact that the perpetrator ended up committing this act was the result of a long process involving many factors. He had been suffering from mental health problems for approximately ten years and his condition had taken a turn for the worse. Several factors were involved during the course of the perpetrator’s life which contributed to his problems. With hindsight, it seems probable that the perpetrator would have benefited from being examined by a specialist in psychiatry. In the light of the information currently available, it is impossible to establish beyond any doubt why the young man’s mental health problems were channelled into an admiration for school shootings and, eventually, led to him committing the deed, which was clearly modelled on earlier school shootings.

The perpetrator used a self-loading or semi-automatic firearm, which was small-calibre but still capable of inflicting serious damage. The investigation commission recommends that firearms capable of firing multiple shots in a very short period of time be made illegal, and that only guns that do not allow the easy infliction of such carnage be available for hobby purposes. With respect to other types of firearms, the investigation commission recommends that a stricter licensing policy be implemented. A dissenting opinion on firearm recommendations has been recorded, however.

To enhance the mental health care services available for young people, the committee also recommends that antidepressants not be prescribed for persons younger than 23 years of age without a thorough examination by a specialist doctor. Other recommendations presented in the report concern the enhancement of student health care, particularly mental health care; the enhancement of interaction between generations in educational institutions; comprehensive security planning in educational institutions; shared command responsibility between authorities in operational situations; cooperation between authorities in preventive work; and the coordination of psychosocial support.

Kauhajoki School Shooting on 23 September 2008 (pdf, 2.1 Mt)

Published 23.9.2008