Sweden, a country that has not had a school shooting since 2001, is nevertheless trying to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to preventing casualties and panic if and when another one occurs.
Earlier this week, the Nordic country’s the Swedish National Education Agency announced that all school personnel will receive training in how to handle violence and weapons in the workplace, according to an article published by The Local, a English-language Swedish newspaper.
Unlike in parts of the US, Sweden does not have a concealed handgun law. Citizens are only allowed to carry firearms if they are going hunting or to a firing range. All Swedish schools are designated as weapons-free zones, and the country saw just 68 intentional homicides committed in 2012, a rate of 0.7 per 100,000 people.
By comparison, the US averaged 4.8 homicides per 100,000 people in 2012.
“It’s critical that the faculty have thought through this and are prepared,” Annika Hjelm, director of education at the agency, told Sveriges Radio.
“When it actually happens everything turns to chaos and people don’t think normally. But they have to react quickly.”
Hjelm went on to say that the government will release a “shooting-prevention manual” for all school staff members full of guidelines on all sorts of school violence, including attacks or threats made by guns or knives.
Also included will be preventive efforts to keep potential situations from escalating, from simple things like locking doors to reporting suspicious persons or behavior on campus.
Because of Sweden’s geography, hunting is a popular pastime, allowing people as young as 15 to obtain the right to own a firearm. The country’s laws state:
From the age of 15 years, one may take the hunting exam. It is lawful for a person with a gun license to lend his or her gun to a person at least 15 years and older, under supervision. A Swede may be given a license to own up to six hunting rifles, ten pistols or a combination of eight rifles and pistols. There would need to be a valid reason for ownership of more firearms. It is stipulated that all firearms are to be stored/kept in an approved gun safe.
With school shootings in England, France and Finland in recent years, along with the horror of the 2011 Norway attacks that involved mass shootings at a summer camp, Swedish officials believe they would rather be safe than sorry.
Longtime residents of Sweden have painful memories of school shootings. One of the earliest on record occurred in the country in 1961, when 17-year-old Ove Conry Andersson entered a school gymnasium during a dance and opened fire, killing one classmate and wounding seven others. He escaped police pursuit and turned himself in the next day, confessing to the crime.
Sweden would not have another school shooting until 2001, when two young men aged 19 and 17 murdered the younger brother of a student at Bromma secondary school who owed them $500 for drugs. The student was shot through the throat in the school bathroom in front of multiple witnesses.