Joseph Sabino Mistick: Time is ripe for action on climate, guns, opioids | TribLIVE.com
Joseph Sabino Mistick, Columnist

Joseph Sabino Mistick: Time is ripe for action on climate, guns, opioids

Joseph Sabino Mistick
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AP
Strong winds move palm trees at the first moment of the arrival of Hurricane Dorian in Freeport, Grand Bahama, Bahamas Sept. 1.

“There is no fruit that is not bitter before it is ripe,” according to Publilius Syrus, a Latin moralist in the century before Christ. It seems that we have always known that everything has its season. And in the last days of summer, we can relish those things that have finally ripened.

A peach is not worth eating unless the juice runs down your chin. Melons are only ready when you can smell their sweet flesh without slicing them open. And tomatoes, glorious red tomatoes, are a waste of time until just before autumn, when they finally keep their promise.

Nature, of course, is our best teacher, and the bounty of late summer also reminds us of the importance of ripeness in human affairs.

Anyone who pays attention knows that something is not right with the weather, and Hurricane Dorian is a sign that the time is ripe to tackle climate change. Dorian will be called a freak monster storm by climate change deniers, but its biblical destruction should be a heads up.

Those politicians who continue to tout the “folly” of climate change as part of a general campaign against science and knowledge are more exposed with every new epic natural disaster. It is time to listen to the experts. We went to the moon, so we can handle this.

One sure sign that the time is ripe for sensible gun reform is Walmart’s announcement last week that it will stop selling ammunition for assault rifles and handguns. That decision came after two shootings at two Walmart stores took 24 lives this summer, and it followed this year’s similar decision by Dick’s Sporting Goods.

“It’s clear to us that the status quo is unacceptable,” according to Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer.

The status quo is tougher for politicians to explain, too. A total of 38 people were slaughtered in August in Dayton, Ohio, El Paso, Texas, and Odessa, Texas, by cowards armed with military-style rifles. It is time for us to carefully examine the 10-year period when assault weapons were banned, a ban enacted in 1994, and determine if it slowed the killing.

And a late summer opioid verdict in Oklahoma showed that the time is ripe for a final reckoning for those who ignored the dangers of opioids in the interest of profit. The state was awarded $572 million against Johnson & Johnson in the first trial of a drug manufacturer for the human devastation caused by prescription painkillers.

Thousands of lawsuits are pending across the country, and it has been reported that Purdue Pharma may be close to offering $10 billion to $12 billion to settle. Money will help, but that is far too little, and states attorneys general are seeking more.

And people must be held accountable, too, including any public officials who looked the other way at the behest of Big Pharma.

Too often we lose track of the big problems, misdirected by advertisers and lobbyists working for those with something to lose. Our ripe openings for change, like fruit, could drop from the tree and be gone for this season if we fail to act now.

Joseph Sabino Mistick is a Pittsburgh lawyer. Reach him at [email protected].

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