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'Prayers & thoughts, but also action': Strangers find common ground on gun violence

Posted at 10:09 PM, Aug 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-05 06:53:35-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — In the basement of a south Kansas City church, two dozen people gathered Sunday night to talk about gun violence plaguing the city and the country.

"We're inviting everyone into being a little bit brave," Reverend Kelly Isola, who moderated the conversation at Unity Southeast, told the strangers gathered at round tables.

"How many of you feel powerless or helpless and want to do something?" she asked, as attendees raised their hands.

"I do," Isola added.

She travels the country to facilitate what she calls "courageous conversations," tackling difficult topics like gun violence. The goal is to go beyond "thoughts and prayers" and into meaningful solutions.

"Prayers and thoughts, but you also have to have action," she explained.

The people who came to Unity Southeast on Sunday brought different viewpoints.

"My closest experience with guns is my fear of being harmed by one," Nia Martin, a teacher who recently moved to Kansas City said.

She came in the hopes of learning lessons she can pass on to her students.

"Let's eliminate the motivation for pulling a trigger," Martin said, "What can I say to influence the children to love each other?"

Mykel Krahenbuhl, a Kansas City native, came with a different experience. He got his first gun at 18 and carried one for his job as a security guard. He thinks more people should have weapons as long as they are trained.

"This is just a way for me to at least share how I think that we should handle the situation with others who many want to listen," he said of his decision to attend the meeting.

Krahenbuhl agrees with Isola that more "heartfelt" conversations about difficult issues need to happen.

"Fear doesn't accomplish anything. You have to tackle things with love and compassion," he said.

These conversations, in Isola's experience, often lead to action.

"Someone walks away and feels a sense of empowerment, that maybe I can," she said.