Every year on my birthday I struggle to balance the happiness of turning a year older and the pain of my brother’s life being cut short
Nathalie Arzu 7.31.2020
Since the day my little brother, Jose Webster, was born, we celebrated our birthdays together. His birthday was September 5 and mine was September 6. Every year we would have a birthday party; although there would be two cakes, my brother always seemed to blow out my candles. At the time I did not know how much I would cherish those moments.
On September 15, 2011, 10 days after his 16th birthday, Jose was shot 15 times by two men on the street while walking his girlfriend home. The paramedics did what they could, but Jose died four blocks from our home.
Every year on my birthday I struggle to balance the happiness of turning a year older and the pain of my brother’s life being cut short. After my brother, Jose Webster, died, I knew there needed to be a change. Gun violence had just been recognized as a public health issue. In that moment, I knew I wanted to be part of the solution to end gun violence. Obtaining a Master’s of Public Health helped me attain skills and tools to create changes on a legislative and community level. I became an advocate so fewer people will have to experience the pain my family still feels—every. single. day.
I’m very active in legislative reform. I recently worked with New York legislators to pass the Jose Webster Untraceable Firearms Act—which bans the sale of ghost guns and regulates unfinished receivers, which are untraceable and can be purchased without a background check.
I also support community based programs focused on creating safer communities and ending cycles of violence. Black and Brown neighborhoods are disproportionately impacted by gun violence. Prevention programs are vital in contributing to safe and healthier communities.
I don’t tell my story to get sympathy. I do it so that everyone understands the impact of gun violence in this country—not only on survivors like me but on all American communities.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. A yearly average was developed using four years of the most recent available data: 2018 to 2021.