It’s becoming clear that the Chicago Police Department’s blanket ban on gang-related homicides is no longer workable. Clearly we need to try a new approach: legalize and regulate, in the interest of harm reduction.
The first step is to provide training to registered gang members in the proper use of firearms. Too many people have died because of a lack of adequate training among gang enforcers, leading to innocents “catching strays.” The city should look to partner with the NRA and private philanthropists to build and staff a shooting range to improve the aim of at-risk youth.
Secondly, once we are assured that only gang members will be killed, we need some way to keep such homicides within tolerable levels. Here I think we need to take a hint from environmental policy: homicide cap and trade. Each registered gang would be given the opportunity to bid on permits that would constitute an annual allowance of homicides. If they do not use all their murders, they can sell the remainders to other participants in the system (which presumably would include the police department itself). Murders in excess of the particular gang’s “cap” would be prosecuted like traditional murders, and other gangs would be incentivized to cooperate with the police investigation in order to maintain their ability to legally murder people — a stark reversal of the current culture of non-cooperation that our short-sighted total murder ban has helped to produce.
In addition, gangs could earn murder-offset credits by funding after-school programs and engaging in other philanthropic activities likely to lower the murder rate in their communities.
I believe this plan would be a private-public partnership in the best sense, using market forces to regulate a behavior that traditional “Big Government” law enforcement has failed to adequately address. I urge Mayor Emanuel and the City Council to take up this proposal at their earliest convenience.