Ray Elliott/Voices: Remedy for gangs that can't shoot straight?

Ray Elliott/Voices: Remedy for gangs that can't shoot straight?

By RAY ELLIOTT

CHICAGO (AP) — Police say the two young girls who were critically wounded in separate weekend shootings in Chicago's South Side were not the intended victims.

Department spokesman Anthony Guglielumi said in an email Monday that the girls, ages 12 and 13, were shot in the head Saturday night in areas with heavy gang activity by people who were aiming at someone else.

Who would have thought that? Aren't there a lot of young girls and other seemingly innocent people out on the street in cities and towns across the country, and particularly in Chicago, but here in Champaign-Urbana, too, where people get hit and killed while they are walking down the street?

Well, of course. These young and innocent people are killed by people who have had no training of any kind with guns. They just somehow pick up pistols, stick them in their pockets and pull them out when they see something they don't like and fire off a few rounds. They're worse than "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight," the name of a 1969 novel by Jimmy Breslin that was a funny story made into a movie in 1971.

These gangs are two warring Mafia families in New York. One of them, considered weaker than the other, uses a dang old lion to blackmail the other gang's "clients." It's the story of Papa Baccala, a Brooklyn Mafia boss, and Kid Sally Palumbo, a would-be capo who "couldn't run a gas station at a profit even if he stole the customers' cars."

Sounds like some of the people running around shooting people today.

But enough of that. These young gang members and others who carry guns like this is the Wild West need to learn to shoot straight and hit the people they want to hit instead of young and innocent people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and are on the bad end of people who can't shoot straight.

So what to do with them? Obviously they go to prison with other criminals, if and when they are caught, are charged and maybe convicted. Which doesn't always happen. And if they do go to prison, they're back on the street before you know it to pick up a gun and shoot at somebody again. You read about that every day.

Rather than prison for these gun-happy people who can't shoot straight, we, as a society, have a responsibility to teach them to shoot straight so they will hit their intended targets and not young girls or anybody just walking down the street.

When these people are caught and convicted, rather than send them to prison, send them to the military for the term they would have gone to prison. I'm partial to the Marine Corps myself. Let these trigger-happy dudes step off the bus and into the red footprints each recruit does when they get to Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island or San Diego and go through boot camp with a drill instructor screaming in their faces from early morning to late at night.

By the time they get to the rifle range, they might have had an attitude adjustment. Maybe not, but they could learn about rifles and how to shoot straight by snapping in for a couple of weeks — that's without live ammunition, dry firing. No live ammunition until they can be trusted. That may not ever happen, although you can be sure that they will learn safety protocol. I recall one day on the live-fire range when we (recruits) had been told if we had a jam to keep the rifle pointed down range and hold up our hand.

One recruit not far from me held up his hand but pointed the rifle down the firing line with everybody in line. The rifle coach came running down behind the firing line, grabbed the rifle with one hand and knocked the recruit down with the other. Needless to say, that was the last time anybody failed to point the rifle down range.

After boot camp, these people can go off to recon outfits, jump school or special forces in the Army, SEAL training in the Navy or another elite outfit where they will be surrounded by tough, well-trained men and women who know how to treat bad guys.

Then give them live rounds and send them off to some troubled area where people shoot back. If they can't shoot straight by then and haven't had an attitude adjustment, they can still go to prison. And when they finally do get back on the street, at least they can hit their targets and little girls and innocent people will be a bit safer.

Ray Elliott is an author and a former high school teacher who lives in rural Urbana. His email address is rayelliott23@att.net.

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