PARIS – A man who was turned away from a nightclub in the French city of Lille returned with a gun and opened fire indiscriminately outside the building on Sunday, killing two people and wounding five, police said.
The shooting will likely lead to renewed debate about France’s gun laws, which were brought into public focus by the killing of seven people in March by an Islamist gunman in Toulouse and a spate of gang murders.
The Lille gunman killed a nightclub employee and customer at about 3 a.m. (0100 GMT) before fleeing the scene, said Herve Malherbe, deputy police chief for the northern region.
“The bouncer who knew the man turned him back. The man came back with a heavy calibre gun, possible a Kalashnikov, and started shooting,” he said. Two of the five people wounded were seriously injured.
Police, who have identified the suspect, are still searching for him.
“Everything must be done to arrest this shooter as quickly as possible so he can face justice,” Lille Mayor Martine Aubry said in a statement.
The March killings in the southwestern city of Toulouse and gang murders in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille drew attention to the easy availability of illegal weapons in France and their growing use in violent crimes.
The government says there are at least 7.5 million guns in legal circulation, owned by the state, amateur gun enthusiasts and hunters.
Nobody knows how many illegal guns are in circulation, though experts put the total number of both legal and illegal guns at between 10 and 20 million in a nation of 65 million people.
Already tough gun laws were tightened in March, before the Toulouse shootings, with the approval of longer jail terms and larger fines for anyone caught with an illegal firearm.
Amateur marksmen and game hunters must meet stringent criteria to obtain a gun licence including registering themselves with the authorities, proving they have no criminal record, and passing a psychological evaluation. There is also a blacklist of about 18,000 people banned from owning guns.