I met my girlfriend, Paige, a few weeks after her brother, Justin, was shot and killed in Seattle. Justin was married to an ER physician and had two young children. He was an early Microsoft employee and was, at the time, working as a developer at Zillow. Paige’s parents were in Seattle visiting Justin and his family. They went to run some errands and were sitting at a stop light when a fight broke out on the sidewalk. A kid in the fight pulled out a gun and fired off a few shots presumptively trying to shoot the kid he was fighting. When the gunshots stopped, the car inched forward. Justin was shot in the head and died in his father’s arms in front of his mother and two children who were in the backseat.

There are no words to describe how tragic this story is.

Last July, just a few months after Justin’s passing, Paige and I were eating dinner in my backyard and we heard gunshots in the front. We went outside a few moments later, saw nothing, but called the police anyway. Within a few minutes, the police arrived and found someone shot a few doors down on the other side of the street.

Two nights ago, at 3:30 in the morning, I woke to gunshots just outside my window. Fearing for my safety because I live on the ground floor, I waited a bit and looked outside and saw nothing. Yesterday, my neighbor texted me to say there was a drive-by shooting two doors down from my apartment. They inadvertently(?) shot up the house of my elderly neighbor who has lived on my block for over 65 years. She wasn’t hit and is shaken up, but fine. She lives next to a drug dealer who has lived on my block longer than me. They must have either been horrible aim or had the wrong address.

I’ve lived on my block for over 5 years. It is quiet and lovely, except for this one person. I’ve called the police at least 3 times on him, mostly due to noise and one other time was due to gunshots in the backyard. Apparently he was practicing his aim.

The shooting in July was in revenge for his mother being carjacked earlier that day in the new Jag he bought with drug money. The dealer found one of the guys who carjacked his mother and shot him. He didn’t die. But once the cops discovered who the shooter was, they entered my drug dealing neighbor’s house to presumably arrest him. As the cops were entering from the front, he ran to the back, opened up a window and tossed his gun out the window, nearly hitting a cop who was entering from the back of the house.

He’s been away, presumably in prison, for the past few months and the block has been wonderfully quiet. No deals and no gunshots. Rumor is, he’s out on bail, and now is a wanted man by presumably another drug dealer. The cops are currently stationed on my street 24/7 for the foreseeable future. This is very atypical for my neighborhood. I live in probably the nicest part of Williamsburg. But, it only takes one shitty person to bring down a significant portion of the neighborhood.

Guns are horrible. Guns in the hands of people are even worse. The gun advocates, like my father and my brother, will say that we need more citizens armed with guns, because the only way to stop a bad guy with guns is a good guy with guns.

That obviously doesn’t make sense. If Justin had a gun in his car, that wouldn’t have helped him. If I had been shot while I was sleeping because of a mistaken address, a gun near my bed wouldn’t have helped me. Good guys with guns didn’t help Trayvon nor the kids in Newtown nor the theater in Aurora. More people were shot in Chicago the day of the Aurora shooting than the people shot in the theater. It’s easy to support your right to guns when you live a protected life far away from the inner cities. Guns become more of a symbolic protection from “all the bad people in the world” who are different and far away from you. But when you live in the cities because you value diversity in race, socioeconomic status, and culture, guns simply make your existence much less safe.

This is a public health crisis that’s always been and always will be.

About 30,000 people are killed by guns in America every year. Gunshots are only 10% fatal, therefore about 300,000 people are shot every year in America. This is a massive cost to our healthcare system in both human lives and dollars.

But, of course, the real issue here is that our “freedom” to own guns enslaves us. I do not feel safe in my own house. But this in no way compares to Paige and what her family has been through in the past 11 months. Justin is gone because he was an innocent bystander in a country that cherishes their right to form a well-armed militia. I’m glad I live in at least a civilized city where the vast majority of people do not want guns in the hands of every citizen. However, because we unfortunately consider ourselves part of the United States, I still have to feel unsafe because guns are so easy to get both legally and illegally. And Paige and her family still has to struggle on a daily basis with this “freedom.” It’s sick. And until you experience the situation firsthand, most of us will still be yelling about our right to well-armed militias. I don’t wish Paige’s experience on anyone. But I’m sure it would make you feel differently about guns and violence in America. And I do hope, one day, we can all become an enlightened nation.