The near-fatal shooting of a small child in Compton last week, hit by a stray bullet intended for someone else, was only the most recent in a long list of similar unintentional shootings of innocent victims. This nation has had more than enough funerals of unsuspecting bystanders, killed mistakenly because the shooter missed the intended victim and hit a kid, mother or grandma. It happens in Chicago, Miami... and now, once again, Compton... as well as elsewhere across the country.
* an unintentional murder of a mother in Chicago by a bullet meant for her companion,
* the fatal shooting of an 8-year-old girl standing next to her targeted father in Miami,
* the incomprehensible death of a 1-year-old Compton girl in her crib.
In each case, the intended victim was someone else, close by.
How do we stop this senseless killing? The answer isn't gun or gang control. The slaughter ends when gang members are taught to shoot straight.
Real gun control will never pass congress or find support in the present Supreme Court. What we need is a second amendment friendly plan, sponsored by the National Rifle Association, that will stop this endless killing of innocents. How about a concerted effort by NRA to teach gang members how to fire their weapons accurately?
That's where the NRA can do a great public service. Since the organization proposes no effective way to disarm gangs, and won't accept any practical form of gun control, the only solution lies with the shooters. They need to be trained, and the NRA, with its millions of skilled marksmen, is just the agency to do that.
Liberal, do-good organizations suggest that the underlying cause of the violence is poverty and unemployment among disadvantaged youth. Hardliners want to stop early release from prison and impose draconian sentences for gun-related crimes. NRA, in contrast, should fund a pilot program in Los Angeles and Chicago that will teach gang members to shoot accurately. Gangs will welcome this because hitting the wrong person lowers a member's self esteem.
Gangs will enthusiastically flock to rifle and pistol ranges. Funded by a million dollar grant from Koch brothers, and additional money raised by a one dollar assessment of NRA members, gun ranges will set aside specific days and times reserved for gangsters exclusively.
Professional NRA instructors, in many cases former military snipers now living homeless on Skid Row, will provide individual instruction. Regardless of the shooting accuracy of the student at the beginning of the six-week course, the overwhelming majority of those who finish the program will score at least 220 our of a possible 250 and will graduate as an "Expert Marksman," Scores between 200 and 219 fall into the "Sharpshooter"class. The remainder of those qualifying will be labeled "Marksmen."
For those who fail to meet a yet to be determined minimum score, gun ownership will be prohibited. enforced by gangs themselves, until they complete an additional six week course for those who are fire-arms challenged.
Not only will there be a noticeable drop in the slaying of innocent bystanders, especially children, but there is what might be called a collateral benefit - a marked decrease in gang population and gang crime as the newly trained marksmen now hit their intended targets more frequently and fatally. Those gangs whose members score poorly in the NRA course may disappear entirely.
If the Koch brothers are reluctant to make that generous donation, savvy legislators will surely urge a government appropriation. Bean counters will prove that the program will pay for itself by reductions in law enforcement costs and emergency room expenses. Lower health insurance premiums will result from fewer innocent gun victims needing treatment and because more gang members will die instantly and require no medical aid.
The program will undoubtedly be denounced by the left as a sell-out to the NRA, and by a fringe group on the right who insist the solution to the slaughtering of kids is "Let every child be armed."
This is the only practical reaction to the heartbreak currently caused by careless or poorly aimed shootings. No additional laws, no longer prison sentences, no end to parole will stop the carnage now suffered because of poorly-aimed shots. In appreciation, gang members will join NRA en masse.
This is not the solution usually offered by politicians and reformers. But it's one that just might work.
Ralph E. Shaffer is professor emeritus of history at Cal Poly Pomona. firstname.lastname@example.org