KALAMAZOO, MI (WKZO AM/FM) — Kalamazoo County Commissioners have joined Kalamazoo city leaders, approving a resolution declaring gun violence a “public health crisis”.
The plan is for the County to work with the city and any others who want to help, to take on the underlying issues that lead to shootings. Gun violence has spiked during the pandemic.
Commissioner Jeff Heppler, who is the Police Chief in Augusta opposed it, saying this work should be left to law enforcement.
“I am an expert in the field of violence. I have been there, I have done it. If you want to deal with gun violence you need to get with the police departments, the prosecutors, the Sheriff, and the courts. They’re the ones in charge of doing that.”
But Commissioner Monteze Morales says that may be how their department operates, but in Kalamazoo, they are trying to work on the root causes of gun violence, and so are Public Safety officials.
“We work with KCDP to have basketball games to end gun violence. We work with the chief.”
Chair Tracy Hall says they need to be proactive and not just reactive to reduce gun violence.
“We have to move beyond putting people in jail and in prison and get to these root causes and trying something called intervention and prevention. I am super excited about this collaboration.”
Meetings between all interested parties are planned. The County will also be chipping in a million dollars in COVID-19 relief money, bringing the total committed amount so far to curb gun violence to $2 million dollars.
Prior to the debate, the board got calls from people claiming the resolution was some kind of assault on the 2nd amendment and two commissioners said they received threatening e-mails during the debate. But the commission also received several comments supporting the resolution.