Pharos-Tribune

Breaking News

State News

December 16, 2012

Maureen Hayden: Treat gun deaths as major health problem

INDIANAPOLIS — Last Friday afternoon, in the wake of the unfathomable tragedy that struck the community of Newtown, Conn., Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels directed that flags throughout the state be flown at half-staff until sunset Tuesday.

I live near the Indiana Statehouse, in a small apartment with a clear view of the building. As I watched the flag that sits atop the Statehouse lowered that afternoon, I felt a convulsion of grief.  

It must have felt that way for so many Americans.

The flag on our state Capitol was lowered in accordance with a directive from President Barack Obama. As a sign of respect for the 20 schoolchildren and six adults who were, as the president’s proclamation stated, “victims of the senseless acts of violence” of a gunman, the flags on public buildings and grounds across the land came down, down, down before finally resting at half-staff.

So, too — in a collective act of grief — came down the flags at all U.S. embassies, consulates, military bases, naval stations and other American government facilities around the world.  

The tradition of the flags flown at half-staff, and half-mast on ships and at naval stations ashore, is rich and deep, dating back centuries. There are protocols for how and when it should be done — hoisting it to the peak before lowering it; leaving it lowered for 30 days on the death of president, for example — but mostly it’s about symbolism: It is a sign of national mourning.

Collective grief seems the right thing now. Before the rush to judgment about gun laws, before the calls to arm every schoolteacher or disarm every American, before the inevitably ugly political debates that will soon ensue, we need to feel the grief.

I suspect like so many Americans, I spent most of my weekend parceling out time for the news, dipping in for minutes at a time before turning away from the television, putting away the newspaper, and turning off my computer.

We needn’t turn it away from it for long. The tragedy of Newtown’s massacre would be to ignore the hard things we need to talk about, both in our homes and in our Statehouse. Among them: our easy access to guns, our culture of violence, our ignorance of mental illness that leads to such lethal craziness.

I don’t know how the conversation should be shaped, but here are two things that seem right to include: We pride ourselves in Indiana on our fiscal conservatism, but the dollars we spend on mental health services are well below the national average. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Indiana’s per capita spending on mental health services is about $80; the national average in $120.

Here’s another statistic: Gun deaths in Indiana outpace motor vehicle deaths. We’re one of 10 states where that’s occurred in recent years. One major reason, of course, is how intentional we’ve been as a state and nation to bring down the number of traffic-related deaths. We’ve supported a range of fatality-prevention initiatives, such as mandatory seat-belt use, better highway design, and intolerance for drunken driving. In short, we treated traffic deaths like a major public health problem.

Shouldn’t we be treating gun deaths the same way?

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers from Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.



 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
State News
  • Holiday World plans new winged roller coaster SANTA CLAUS (AP) — The Holiday World amusement park in southern Indiana says it's building a new roller coaster that will launch riders to 60 miles an hour in 3.5 seconds, with a 14-story loop among four inversions. Plans for the Thunderbird were ann

    July 25, 2014

  • Man dies after being hit by sheriff's prisoner van INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Police say a man has died after he was hit by a sheriff's department prisoner transport van on an Indianapolis street. City police spokesman Officer Christopher Wilburn says witnesses told investigators that the man was lying on t

    July 25, 2014

  • Murder, rape charges filed in SW Indiana attack BLOOMFIELD (AP) — Prosecutors have charged a 35-year-old man with fatally shooting a man outside his rural southwestern Indiana home and then raping a woman inside the home. Greene County prosecutors filed murder, rape and other charges Thursday agai

    July 25, 2014

  • Teen Pilot-Crash [Duplicate] [Duplicate] Family: Indiana teen pilot who crashed in ocean knew risks PLAINFIELD (AP) — Haris Suleman knew that flying around the world carried risks. But like adventurers before him, the 17-year-old pilot from Indiana also believed dreams aren't achieved without taking chances. "Why does any explorer undertake the nec

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Indy. Man who avoided prison time for rape resentenced INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Indianapolis man who was placed on home detention after being convicted of drugging and raping his then-wife is going to prison for violating his probation. The ex-wife of 52-year-old David Wise said she felt "sucker punched" b

    July 24, 2014

  • Judge rules Indiana hog farms protected by law WINCHESTER (AP) — A judge has ruled state law protects the operator of large hog farms from lawsuits filed by residents of an eastern Indiana county. The lawsuits against North Carolina-based Maxwell Farms accused it of allowing hog waste to accumula

    July 24, 2014

  • Ex-Indy officer appeals convictions in fatal crash INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A former Indianapolis police officer is appealing his convictions for killing one motorcyclist and seriously injuring two others while driving drunk in his police cruiser. A brief filed by public defenders Wednesday claims the jud

    July 24, 2014

  • Ex-Indiana officer pleads guilty in $150K theft FRANKFORT (AP) — A former central Indiana police officer has pleaded guilty to charges that he stole nearly $150,000 from a company for which he transported cash. Former Frankfort police Lt. Randy Emery avoided jail time as a judge sentenced him to t

    July 24, 2014

  • Court rules prison agency mistreated former Pendleton counselor INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled that Indiana's prison agency mistreated a female employee when it shrugged off her complaints about workers having sex on her desk and later fired her for having an affair with an official. The ap

    July 23, 2014

  • Complaint ends teacher prayer in western Indiana school district TERRE HAUTE (AP) — A western Indiana school district is telling teachers and other employees they can't lead prayers during school-sponsored event. The decision by the Vigo County School Corp. in Terre Haute follows a complaint made to the Freedom fr

    July 23, 2014

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

The Pence administration continues to cut Indiana agency budgets despite a state surplus of $2 billion. Is this wise management of state funds?

Yes
No
Not sure
     View Results
Featured Ads
AP Video
Power to Be Restored After Wash. Wildfire Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive In Case of Fire, Oxygen Masks for Pets Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites Anti-violence Advocate Killed, but Not Silenced. Dempsey: Putin May Light Fire and Lose Control Arizona Prison Chief: Execution Wasn't Botched Calif. Police Investigate Peacock Shooting Death Raw: Protesters, Soldiers Clash in West Bank Police: Doctor Who Shot Gunman 'Saved Lives' 'Modern Family' Star on Gay Athletes Coming Out MN Twins Debut Beer Vending Machine DA: Pa. Doctor Fired Back at Hospital Gunman Raw: Iowa Police Dash Cam Shows Wild Chase
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.