Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Commentary

December 18, 2012

Tragedy calls for national discussion

(Continued)

We needn't turn away from it for long for that 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 seatbelt use, better highway design, and intolerance for drunk 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.

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