Copenhagen shooter used 'legal gun' as investigation continues
Ira Spitzer in Copenhagen

In Copenhagen, summer is usually a time for residents to enjoy the long days relaxing next to the Danish capital's many canals. But that peace was shattered when a gunman opened fire in the Fields Shopping Mall on Sunday. A 22-year-old Danish man has been charged with killing three people and trying to kill seven others.

Danish authorities say the suspect had mental health issues and aren't calling it an act of terrorism. One of the big unanswered questions is how the suspect was able to access the weapon. Officials have declined so far to provide an explanation.

"We are not going to say exactly what weapons were used or that he had access to, how many shots were fired, or exactly what was hit," said Police Inspector Dannie Rise in the aftermath of the shooting. "That is part of the preliminary investigation."


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Denmark has extremely strict gun control laws, with civilian firearms only allowed for hunting or target shooting.

"You have to go through a very thorough background check carried out by the police," said Jens Ulrik Hoegh, the communications officer for the Nordic Safari Club. "They will look into not only your criminal record but even what kind of people you associate with and what kind of life you lead, before you are approved to get a gun license."


The European Union also has minimum standards about possessing firearms that member states are required to incorporate. Police have said the suspect wasn't licensed to carry the weapon used in the shooting, but that it was a legal weapon. It's still unclear how it came into his possession. Hoegh said hunting guns aren't usually used by criminals.

"It's very very rare that these guns end up in crimes, mostly because they're not very attractive to the average criminal," Hoegh said. "They typically use handguns or automatic rifles that are either smuggled in or even stolen from our military court police."

While life goes on here in Copenhagen, the city continues to mourn with vigils for those who died in the attacks. Riders in the Tour de France cycling race - which started in Copenhagen this year - also paid tribute to the victims on Tuesday.

Several prominent opponents of gun legislation in the U.S. have pointed to the Copenhagen attack as evidence that gun laws aren't the problem. But according to the organization the Gun Violence Archive, there have already been more than 300 mass shootings this year in the U.S., defined as an incident in which at least four people are shot. 

Before Sunday, the last mass shooting in Denmark took place in 2015.

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