Gangs do what they do because it gives them a sense of power, along with a sense of belonging. Carrying a gun makes them feel powerful, cool and tough. In addition, they have back-up. Their homies protect them. If anyone messes with them or disrespects them, the group will come to their defense. They're not alone. They ‘belong’ to something bigger – strength in numbers. And besides, who wants to work as an $8 per hour wage slave when you can make thousands of dollars a week selling drugs?
In short, gangs do what they do because they like it.
More often than not, gangbangers end up dead or in prison. Prison doesn’t bother them. In fact, they like it because they get to continue living their gang-lifestyle. Prison is full of rival gangs with which to hate and fight. And when they get out of prison, other gang members hold them in high esteem because going to prison is a badge of honor. And there’s even a type of glamour in dying on the streets. If you die in a blaze of glory, shooting it out with a rival gang, your homies will talk about you with awe in their voices. You gain respect by dying.
So. What’s the solution to gangs? Sociologists recommend education. Christians recommend love. Jurists recommend longer prison sentences. Reactionaries recommend extermination or, at the very least, penal colonies. Geneticists recommend eugenics. The American Rifle Association recommends everyone buy a gun for self-defense. Fashionistas recommend avoiding the colors red and blue.
Most of the aforementioned solutions are either not viable or absurd. They just won’t or don’t work. Education might work, but there's a question of volition. In other words, do they want to be educated? In most cases, probably not.
Since the only thing gangbangers understand and respect is raw violence, a greater, righteous violence is the answer. In other words, don’t cater to them. Don’t throw them in prison and don’t wipe them out. Instead, provide them with military training. Then place them in special units along the lines of the French Foreign Legion, which, although considered an ‘elite force,’ is really nothing more than cannon fodder. When a critical situation arises, one in which the body count is expected to be high, France sends in the Legionnaires.
The U.S. could operate in a similar manner. Instead of sending in the U.S. Marines, send in the gangbanger units. Give them the best training, the best food, the best weapons and good pay. Then give them the dirtiest jobs. And if they survive for five or ten years, give them another chance at being upstanding citizens.
It makes a lot more sense than spending billions of dollars on prisons every year.