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Joseph Sabino Mistick

Joseph Sabino Mistick: School shootings, a political problem, require political solution

| Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018, 5:41 p.m.
School students from Montgomery County, Md., rally in solidarity with those affected by the shooting at Parkland high school in Florida, at the Capitol in Washington (AP Photo | J. Scott Applewhite)
School students from Montgomery County, Md., rally in solidarity with those affected by the shooting at Parkland high school in Florida, at the Capitol in Washington (AP Photo | J. Scott Applewhite)

Last week marked the 50th anniversary of the first episode of “Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.” Fred Rogers put kids first, listening to them as much as talking to them. Fred knew that children are special and that those who protect them are special, too.

“When I was very young, most of my childhood heroes wore capes, flew through the air, or picked up buildings with one arm. ... But as I grew, my heroes changed, so that now I can honestly say that anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me,” he said.

Five days before the “Mister Rogers” milestone, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, we saw once again that not everyone puts kids first.

In yet another national horror, a shooter with easy access to an AR-15 assault rifle, a weapon designed to kill human beings, murdered 14 students and three staff members.

Assault weapons, used before to kill Americans on American soil, shoot through walls and tear bodies to shreds. On video from the classrooms where the Florida students were hiding, you can hear their screams, and the rapid-fire blasts of a battlefield.

Our children.

In their classrooms.

Being killed.

Banning these weapons would not solve all our problems, but it would be a start. Anything that slows the mass killing of our children would help.

But those adults with the power to help have not lifted one finger. Worse, they use political tricks to block those who try.

We know that this is not a question of morality, because if morals counted for anything, these weapons would have been banned after Sandy Hook. There, in 2012, a gunman using an assault weapon slaughtered 20 grade school students and six adults at Christmastime.

Appeals to morality and conscience failed.

Instead, this is about big money and campaign contributions and clout at the ballot box.

This is about politicians who fear more for their political skins than they do for the lives of our children. They know to toe the industry line or expect well-funded primary challengers and possible political defeat.

At the end of the day, since this is a political problem, there must be a political solution, and there are no shortcuts.

The gun lobby must be out-gunned at the ballot box. The political stakes must change before politicians will feel the heat from those who are sick of the killing.

The Florida students who survived the carnage get it.

They marched on the statehouse and have called for a March 24 “March for Our Lives” rally in Washington, D.C. If their movement grows, a nationwide student strike could be a powerful next step.

They are fighting for the babies of Sandy Hook and all the other Americans who have been left defenseless by a political system that is fueled by money. And even though the odds are against them, many great societal changes have started with less.

So, it is time to take a lesson from Mister Rogers, and listen to the children.

As we know from Psalms 8:2, God ordains strength “out of the mouths of babes.”

Joseph Sabino Mistick is a Pittsburgh lawyer (

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