Joseph Sabino Mistick: Stopping filming

In an all-too-familiar scene, more than 100 citizens and community leaders gathered at the Allegheny Center Alliance Church last week to pray for an end to the gun violence that robs us of our youth and puts our community at risk.

Three days earlier, two 17-year-old boys, Jaiden Brown and Mathew Steffy-Ross, were shot dead and nine people were injured at a crowded party – estimated to have 200 young guests – at an Airbnb rental not far from the church.

Pittsburgh residents woke up on Easter morning to news of the mass shooting. Witnesses described revelers jumping from second-story windows when the shooting began, running for their lives, leaving trails of blood among spent automatic rifle cartridges. And Pittsburgh led the national news programs for a senseless act of violence.

But Pittsburgh isn’t alone in dealing with an increase in violent crimes committed with guns. The Easter weekend was deadly everywhere. There was a mass shooting in Portland, Oregon, killing one person and injuring three. There have been two shootings in South Carolina, injuring at least 18 people. In total, there were 10 mass shootings across the country.

Violent crime has skyrocketed in the United States since the summer of 2020, and it’s hard to find the source of this unrest. According to a recent CNN reportCrime is on the rise in Republican and Democratic cities, in places where prosecutors are reform-minded and law-and-order prosecutors, and in states that are gun-tough and not-so-gun-tough.

Many of us remember simpler times when small social slights were settled in the back of the neighborhood bar in an awkwardly executed brawl. The fighters would then return to the bar and buy themselves a beer. For the most part it worked, but those days are over. And while that was never as good as talking about your differences, it was a much better resolution than opening fire.

This quick response to the slightest offense may be just the most extreme example of our crass civic behavior. Generally, we no longer treat each other with respect.

College students must now self-censor in class or risk becoming social outcasts. Controversial speakers are banned from college campuses. Journalists – and their families – are threatened when they report unpopular news. Civil servants – and their families – are receiving death threats for doing their jobs.

But we all have a lot to do in response to this violence. Leaders who say gun violence should be treated as a public health issue are onto something, and they should step up their efforts to address the root causes of this epidemic. It will take time.

In the meantime, prosecutors and law enforcement — both old-school and reform-minded — must do whatever it takes to keep us safe. Those who shoot instead of talk must be stopped, even as our leaders, community groups and clergy work on these longer-term solutions.

And the rest of us need to be less quick to condemn and more willing to let our disagreements go. We can restore civility to our daily lives and lead by example.

Loleda Moman, one of the organizers of the prayer group at the church last week, summed up the responsibility that adults share in helping children get on the right track. As she said, “We have to model the way.”

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