Ever since last Friday's murderous rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., the primal scream of "We need tougher gun control laws!" has been heard throughout much of the blogosphere, social networks and mainstream media.
If it weren't so easy to obtain lethal weapons, the argument goes, it wouldn't be so easy to commit these horrific crimes.
This is a powerful argument, so powerful that it can blind us to a deeper argument- the notion that mass violence is very much a disease, and until we treat it as such, gun control and law enforcement can only do so much.
In a seminal study published in 2000 by The New York Times that examined 100 rampage attacks over 50 years, the authors noted our lack of knowledge on this subject: "While many possible causes have been cited, including violent video games, a decline in moral values and the easy availability of guns, there has been little serious study of this explosive violence."
We have "overlooked a critical issue," the study pointed out, which is that "at least half of the killers showed signs of serious mental health problems."
The study adds: "Society has turned to law enforcement to resolve the rampage killings that have become almost a staple of the nightly news. There has been an increasing call for greater security in schools and in the workplace. But a closer look shows that these cases may have more to do with society's lack of knowledge of mental health issues, rather than a lack of security.