Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Breaking News

Columns

December 17, 2012

HAYDEN: Now is time for a nation to mourn

Gun control debate should not be first reaction

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 today.

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
Columns
  • Rob Burgess House of Burgess: Bush presents 'The Art of Leadership'

    On April 5, “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy,” opened at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University. The display, which runs through June 3, boasts “portraits of more than two dozen world leaders” painted by Bush, according to the official literature.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bohanon: ‘Economics is fun’ in Vegas or in Bible study

    I am writing this on an airplane to Las Vegas. I’ll be attending the annual conference of the Association of Private Enterprise Education along with two of my colleagues and six of my students.

    April 16, 2014

  • Hayden: Want better teacher ratings? Ask the kids

    The state may be back where it started, encumbered with a flawed teacher grading system, a year after implementing what were meant to be tough new standards.
    That was the general consensus of the State Board of Education days after teacher evaluation data were released last week.

    April 15, 2014

  • BRIAN HOWEY: Mike Pence for president in 2016? Stay tuned Mike Pence for president? The swirl of 2016 national ticket talk surrounding Gov. Pence intensified over the past few weeks. I sat down with the governor in his office on Tuesday to find out what he's really thinking. A few hours prior, the Weekly S

    April 14, 2014

  • DICK WOLFSIE: Such a thing as too much My wife and I went on a binge last week. If you think I'm talking about an eating binge, you've never seen how thin we both are. If you think I mean a shopping binge, you don't know how cheap we are. And if you think it was a cleaning binge, you've n

    April 14, 2014

  • ED VASICEK: Chewing over news in bite-size vignettes Today, I am going to share a few "opinionettes" about current news items. Ready? Let's go! City prosperity The unemployment rate in the United States is down to 6.7 percent. This is its lowest level since October 2008. When I remember government effo

    April 13, 2014

  • MICHAEL HICKS: Finding measure of value One aspect of economic research I think is especially powerful is the ability to measure or monetize the things humans clearly value but for which a market price is not necessarily apparent. This is one of the aspects of economic analysis that gives

    April 13, 2014

  • PUBLIC EYE: Right across the county line

    Grant County has wind problems, and as an editor recently and quite rightly noted, “Wind doesn’t care about county lines.”

    So Grant County’s issues over a proposed E.ON Climate & Renewables wind farm are becoming Howard County’s issues as well.

    April 13, 2014

  • RAY DAY: My wife and life, Ramona Today, I will tell you a story about my soul mate and wife, who has been with me for more than 57 years now. Time has gone by so quickly, it only seems like yesterday when we met. Her name is Ramona; I call her Moni for short. Her friends call her Ra

    April 12, 2014

  • OPN - KT041114 - matt mug MATT CONRAD: Chrysler, Purdue alliance It takes about an hour to navigate the route from Purdue University in West Lafayette to Chrysler Group LLC's Kokomo and Tipton plants. But the new partnership between the university and the global auto manufacturer moves Indiana's automotive industr

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

Latest news
Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Raw: Ferry Sinks Off South Korean Coast Town, Victims Remember Texas Blast Freeze Leaves Florida Panhandle With Dead Trees At Boston Marathon, a Chance to Finally Finish Are School Dress Codes Too Strict? Raw: Fatal Ferry Boat Accident Suspicious Bags Found Near Marathon Finish Line Boston Marks the 1st Anniversary of Bombing NYPD Ends Muslim Surveillance Program 8-year-old Boy Gets His Wish: Fly Like Iron Man Sex Offenders Arrested in Slayings of CA Women India's Transgenders Celebrate Historic Ruling Tributes Mark Boston Bombing Anniversary Raw: Kan. Shooting Suspect Faces Judge
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.
Obituaries
Poll
Kelly Lafferty's video on Tom Miller