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The time for decisive action

has long since passed.

The shootings just keep on coming — No. 163 happened Thursday near Champaign Central High School. In Urbana, the number is over 64. No one was killed Thursday, but what about next time?

Considered in that context, congratulations are due to Champaign County Sheriff Dustin Heuerman for stepping up enforcement of illegal gun possession in communities like Champaign, Urbana and Rantoul.

“Recognizing that gun violence is fluid across multiple jurisdictions, the sheriff’s office is taking a proactive approach to help reduce gun violence in Champaign County,” Heuerman said in a statement disclosing that deputies had seized six firearms last weekend from those who were not in legal possession of them.

That’s a start, but still a drop in the bucket. It’s time for local authorities to step up their efforts and work together in an all-hands-on-deck effort to identify the bad guys and strip them of their weapons.

Given the current level of mindless violence, what else could be more important?

That would send a message to the shooters and would-be shooters that there are serious consequences for driving around locked, loaded and looking for the next victim.

Special task forces already exist. But how about adding more manpower to the already-established Champaign County Street Crimes Task Force, which has long focused on illegal weapons and drug reduction?

Heuerman is correct that these outrageous crimes are being committed across multiple jurisdictions. Why not create an enhanced, coordinated response that operates in the same fashion?

All police agencies work together to some degree, but it’s hardly an exaggeration to say that the string of shootings that’s been going on for months now requires an extraordinary response.

Various public officials — elected officials, ministers, law-enforcement officers — have been calling for an end to this madness for months. The only response from those responsible has been more shootings, more injuries, more deaths and even more firepower.

It ought to be obvious that this scourge will not stop until it is lawfully put to an end.

Some have suggested that police and prosecutors cannot arrest and charge their way out of this problem. That plaintive cry is just an excuse for doing nothing but waiting for the next “shots fired” call to 911.

For starters, very few — if any — of the wrongdoers have legal authority to carry a firearm. There are tried-and-true legal means to stop them, find and seize their weapons and then charge them for illegal possession. Word gets around.

These individuals are not easily dissuaded from engaging in illegal activity, particularly as it relates to the endless cycle of violence and retaliation. Indeed, they show signs of being beyond persuasion.

They are mostly impulsive, living in a world where the future is not a concern, life is cheap and the gangster lifestyle is worthy of emulation.

These young men may not feel the same in 10 years, when they are older and more mature. But they clearly feel that way now.

Still, all of them surely want to live. None of them wants a life behind bars. They must realize at some level that there is far more to life than seeking whatever rewards participating in these shooting sprees gives them. There’s a better path for them to follow.

But the first step toward a community solution is disarming them and protecting the public. The current situation is intolerable, and it must be attacked with every available law-enforcement resource.

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