IMG_9865By J. Gabriel Ware

Born in Nigeria, Kalamazoo resident Kris Mbah didn’t have a lot of exposure to guns until he moved to the United States when he was 11. His first time holding a gun came in the early-2000s when his then-girlfriend’s family took him to a field in Saginaw for target practice. The then-22-year-old used a Magnum to fire away at distant cans and and bottles. An adrenaline rush made him feel as if he was a character from video war games such as “Call of Duty.”

“But at the same time, it felt very dangerous,” he says. “I held something in my hand that could take away a life.”

Mbah says he would come to learn how dangerous guns are during that same period, when he moved to the east side of Detroit to work for a radio station. He said the sound of gun shots at night was so common that he decided to sleep in the basement. But not even that strategy could stop him from coming into contact with guns.

“One morning I came up from the basement to get some fresh air,” Mbah says. “I opened the front door, and before I stepped out, I heard a gunshot, and a bullet ricocheted off the side of the house. Maybe if I would have stepped out, I could have been killed.”

Mbah now lives in Kalamazoo’s Milwood neighborhood, where he says he doesn’t have to worry about gun violence.

“There’s a little gun violence in Kalamazoo, but not to the extent of Detroit,” he says. “Compared to Detroit, Kalamazoo is Disney Land.”

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