That's hard to answer, and here's why: The U.S. Flag Code specifies who has the authority to order flags to be flown at half-staff, and that authority is limited to the President of the United States and the governors of states, territories and possessions.
According to the code, there are many holidays when our nation's flag should be displayed. Only two days call for its display at half-staff: Peace Officers Memorial Day (May 15) and Memorial Day, when the flag is flown at half-staff until noon. The flag code provides guidance to the president and the governors when it's appropriate to order flags to fly at half-staff (primarily upon the deaths of certain government officials).
Some flag retailers offer apps and website widgets that link to those official orders, so you can receive the same copy of the order that has been distributed to other governmental officials.
But that won't tell you why the flags are being displayed half-staff on other days or places. Nothing in the code forbids people from flying flags at half-staff. There's no federal law or judicial decision limiting the individual's ability to fly the flag at half-staff as a matter of personal expression. Nor has there been any law or decision calling such expression a desecration of the flag, although some critics say the growing trend could eventually trivialize the meaning of the display.
Source: The U.S. Flag Code, as reported to the U.S. Senate in https://www.senate.gov/reference/resources/pdf/RL30243.pdf
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FEATURED PHOTO: The flags were lowered to half-staff at Argyle High School in spring 2015 after an athletic building that was under construction collapsed and killed a construction worker. A second construction worker was killed at the site a few days later. DRC File Photo