In the exchanges, refereed loosely by gun-control proponent and CNN's Piers Morgan, Clarke and Barrett debated the role of the sheriff's office, planned furloughs for Milwaukee police officers and calls for federal gun-control laws.
Morgan host of "Piers Morgan Tonight," became part of the fray as well, pressing Clarke to tell him how many people in Milwaukee had defended themselves and their family at home by firing a gun.
"I don't have those statistics," Clarke said. Asked by Morgan to provide a ballpark figure, Clarke replied, "I don't think we need to go there, to be honest with you."
"You haven't got a clue," Morgan sneered.
But Clarke fired back as well. He brought up the 2009 incident near the Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis when Barrett was beaten severely by a man wielding a tire iron.
"I'm sure that if you had a gun and a plan that day, the outcome would have been a little different," Clarke said to Barrett, who was in a different studio. "I'm asking that law-abiding citizens who make the decision that they see their personal security as their individual responsibility in a like situation can respond as they see fit."
Clarke gained national attention last week after a public service announcement ad began airing on local radio. In the ad, Clarke told listeners not to count on police responding rapidly to their 911 calls. Instead, he said, people need to consider taking a gun-safety course "so you can defend yourself until we get there."
Critics, including Roy Felber, the president of the Milwaukee Deputy Sheriffs' Association, said Clarke's comments seemed to be a call to vigilantism, a charge Clarke has fiercely rejected.
Barrett, who is a co-founder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, has been a vocal proponent of President Barack Obama's call for new gun laws. The group, which includes the mayors of more than 800 cities across the country, backs universal background checks for all gun sales; the banning of so-called assault weapons; and placing a limit on high-capacity magazines.
Barrett said it was irresponsible of Clarke to "basically imply" that it won't help citizens to call 911 when they need help.
The mayor said the sheriff's office did not have jurisdiction over the Milwaukee Police Department. But Clarke said his department was the top law enforcement agency in Milwaukee County.
"We are a full-fledged law enforcement agency," Clarke said. "We respond to anything."
Later, Barrett said, "The 911 calls from homes in the city of Milwaukee are responded to by the Milwaukee Police Department."
Barrett conceded police officers each had to take three furlough days this year, but said Chief Edward Flynn had assured him there would be no loss of coverage in the city.
Clarke added that he had to lay off 42 deputies this year. Part of Clarke's message has been that there has been an erosion of law enforcement resources.
Chat with Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday: http://bit.ly/clarkegunchat
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