Vesa Moilanen, Associated Press
People set candles Wednesday near a vocational high school in Kauhajoki, Finland, where a student killed 10 people and himself.

KAUHAJOKI, Finland — This sparsely populated nation near the Arctic Circle has long clung to an ethos of rugged individualism where, unlike in most of Western Europe, the right to bear arms is deeply ingrained in the culture.

Stunned by the second school massacre in a year, however, Finns are questioning their gun laws and other social problems such as rampant alcoholism and high suicide rates.

Leading newspapers splashed the word "Why?" on their front pages, seeking answers into what drove Matti Saari, a 22-year-old student with no previous criminal record, to kill 10 people in a shooting spree at his vocational college before killing himself.

"It's a time for very serious self-reflection," said Bishop Simo Peura, who held a service for shocked residents of Kauhajoki after Tuesday's massacre. "We have to ask ourselves what our values are and what kind of society we want to live in this country."

In an editorial, the newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet lamented the damage to the nation's image.

"So we live in a country which not only stands out for domestic violence and other types of physical violence," the paper said. "It is also reaching the top of the world in regard to mass murders in schools."

In an eerily similar attack in November 2007, 18-year-old Pekka-Eric Auvinen killed eight people and himself at a school in Jokela, near Helsinki. Six years ago, a 19-year-old chemical engineering student killed six people and himself and wounded 80 when he detonated a homemade bomb in a crowded shopping mall.

Because of the parallels between the two school attacks, police said it was possible that Auvinen and Saari had been in contact with each other.

"Their actions seem so similar that I would consider it a miracle if we did not find some connecting link," investigator Jari Neulaniemi was quoted as telling Finnish news agency STT.

The gunmen in both school massacres posted violent clips on YouTube before the shootings, were fascinated by the 1999 Columbine school shootings in Colorado, and died after shooting themselves in the head.

Police said Wednesday they probably bought their weapons at the same gun store.

Meanwhile, the government pledged to tighten Finland's gun laws and keep mentally unstable people from obtaining firearms.

Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen said it was time to consider restricting access to guns in a country with more than 1.6 million firearms in private hands.