If the federal government begins funding gun-violence research again, challenges will still remain. In the aftermath of the Newtown shootings, mental illness has been a buzzword, said Temple University's Farley. But better mental-health care is no panacea when the psychology and psychiatry community is in an uproar over questions as basic as how to properly diagnose psychiatric problems, Farley said.
"We're having major internal battles over such a basic issue of diagnosis," he said, citing controversy over the ongoing revisions to the "psychiatrist's bible," the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual (DMS). "We need to get our own house in order, also," Farley said.
Adding to the confusion, there is no clear link between mental illness and violence. In fact, the mentally ill are more likely than the average person to be victims of violence, not perpetrators.
Guns are the low-hanging fruit of the violence conversation, Farley said, because they're the standout difference between the United States and other developed nations such as Canada, which have stricter gun control but many of the same cultural factors such as violent media. (According to a report released Jan. 9 by the National Research Council and the National Institute of Medicine, 1.6 Canadians per 100,000 died from all forms of violence in 2008 compared with 6.5 Americans per every 100,000 that same year.)