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After attacks, Europe hurries to tighten gun laws

Wed Mar 11, 2009 7:21 pm by GD2GO

After attacks, Europe hurries to tighten gun laws

By MATTI HUUHTANEN, Associated Press Writer Matti Huuhtanen, Associated Press Writer Ц Wed Mar 11, 9:36 am ET

HELSINKI Ц Several European countries have restricted gun laws in the wake of school massacres, gang violence and other gun-related crimes:

_Finland announced plans Wednesday to impose stricter restrictions on firearms, including raising the minimum age for handgun ownership from 15 to 20. The proposal was prompted by two school massacres within a year in which lone gunmen opened fire on classmates and teachers.

_Germany, where a gunman killed at least 11 people Wednesday, raised the legal age for owning recreational firearms from 18 to 21 following a 2002 shooting in Erfurt that killed 16 people, including 12 teachers.

_Belgian lawmakers passed strict new gun control laws in 2006 in reaction to the racially motivated shooting deaths of a toddler and her black baby sitter in Antwerp.

_Swiss citizens are demanding a referendum aimed at confining army weapons to military compounds and banning private purchases of pump-action rifles and automatic weapons Ч following a spate of suicides and homicides.

_The Portuguese Parliament is currently discussing a government proposal to tighten gun laws, including denying bail to anyone suspected of a gun crime.

_Denmark's government said last week it will raise the penalty for illegal gun possession as part of a crackdown on gang violence that has killed three people and injured 25 in recent months.

_European Union lawmakers proposed tighter gun control across the bloc last year, including guidelines saying that only people over 18 not deemed a threat to public safety could buy and keep guns. EU members have until 2010 to adopt the measures.

In addition, some U.S. states have recently tightened gun laws as well:

Х Colorado, a year after the 1999 Columbine High School shootings, made it a felony to buy a firearm for another person who should know the transaction is illegal, barred anyone from giving a firearm to a juvenile without the consent of the parents; made it illegal for a person not to try to prevent a juvenile from committing a gun crime; and increased the penalty for possession of a weapon by a felon.

But three years later, the state expanded gun rights instead, by requiring sheriffs to issue gun permits to people who pass a criminal background check, prohibiting local governments from making gun laws more restrictive than the state's, and abolishing local registries of gun owners.

Х In Virginia, where a student killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007 before committing suicide April 16, 2007, the governor signed an executive order requiring that anyone ordered by a court to get mental health treatment be added to a database of people barred from buying guns.

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