City leaders weigh in as gun debate rages

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - In the wake of the tragedy of Newtown and President Obama's bold plan, guns have taken over our conversations. So much so, the Johnson County Sheriff felt he needed to release a statement of his views.

Read Sheriff Denning's full statement |

He's one side of a compassionate and difficult debate that's raging. Alvin Brooks falls on the other. Both men see far too often what happens when someone pulls a trigger.

As the country falls deeper into a gun-control divide, no city escapes gun violence. Alvin Brooks knows that all too well.

"Of the 108 homicides we had in KC last year, about 90 percent of those were with guns," he said.

The pictures of those victims line the walls of the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime. Brooks, a founding member, knows every story.

"Bullets don't have race or ethnicity or gender or religion."

This week, a bullet claimed Demon Woolridge, shot while running from a fight. His mother, Stephanie, cried at a candle-light vigil held for him Friday night.

"He wasn't a criminal. He didn't sell drugs," she said.

Stories like Demon's are why Brooks said the president is doing the right thing.

"Anything better than what we've got is a step forward," he said. "A step better in the right direction. We need to save ourselves from ourselves."

Johnson County Sheriff Frank Denning disagrees Obama's plan will help.

"We can't legislate behavior. That's the hardest thing," he said.  "It is so important that we're not tearing something down because we the country have been through these significant emotional events."

Obama's call to ban assault weapons has been a polarizing issue.

"Why do we need assault weapons?" asked Brooks. "Assault weapons are to kill people."

Denning insists banning them won't stop mass murders.

"The Unibomber, who we've known and followed for years until justice was done, never used an AK-47 or an AR-15. We're dealing with an individual or individuals here who are mentally ill."

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