by Tom Buglio: remarks at International Day of Peace observation, West Chester 9/21/16
Thank you for inviting me to speak here today. I am the director of the Chester County Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, and I have chosen the theme of my talk to be “Hope vs. Fear: what kind of a world do we want for our children and families?”
We are truly blessed to live here in beautiful Chester County. These rolling hills are such a wonderful place to be, with good schools, lots of open space for biking, hiking, and walks in the woods. And we can experience the wonder of the 4 seasons, with Autumn being my favorite time, with the crisper air, changing colors of the leaves, and fall festivals galore. We all strive for a home where our children thrive, and enjoy everything life has to offer,… where we can live in a truly peaceful world.
However, this peace can be shattered by someone who should not be permitted to use a gun, somehow getting a hold of one and using it badly with tragic results. There are stories in the news of this happening around the country every day. Although it does not happen often here in Chester County, we are not immune from the tragedy of gun violence.
So I ask again, what kind of a world do we wish to live in?
Let me paint a picture of two different visions of our world. The world of Fear is populated by an armed society, with every able-bodied person owning and carrying a gun for self-protection, where all feel it is their personal responsibility to protect themselves and their loved ones from the bad people in the world.
The world of Fear has a vision of the “good guy with a gun” being a hero if anything goes wrong. The world of Fear believes that you can’t wait for the police to help you, you have to take the law and justice into your own hands, and that this is the best way to keep yourself safe.
The world of Fear is populated by the fear of the OTHER — those who don’t look like you, speak like you or have the same religion as you. The world of Fear does not trust immigrants, or people of different races or nationalities. The world of Fear does not trust our government or our police. The world of Fear is the world that is fostered by the NRA and other gun rights organizations, which paint a dystopian view of society, with not just the freedom to buy as many guns as you want, but the absolute need to do so.
Any government interference in a citizen’s “legal right to arm himself to the teeth” is viewed as tyrannical overreach and a breach of the 2nd amendment.
This world of Fear is embraced by the Republican nominee for President, who also paints the worst picture of the OTHER since George Wallace ran for President as an out and out racist in the 1970ʼs. He fosters a world vision with fearful language about Mexicans, about immigrants, about Syrian refugees who flee the violence in their country. He refused to accept the legitimacy of our current President by spreading the “birther” lie that Barack Obama was really born in Kenya and wasn’t legally allowed to be President.
This vision of “America First” and “Make America Great Again” is very much an Us vs. Them mentality, where going back into our past is the answer to our problems. Not surprisingly, the NRA has fully embraced this message of Fear. Their vision of the world is very similar.
Or, do we choose to live in a world of Hope? A world where people of all races, nationalities and cultures get along? Where the rich diversity of difference adds to the tapestry that is American culture, where the melting pot helps make our country stronger and more beautiful? The World of hope celebrates the differences and lives up to the ideals of our founding fathers, where freedom of religion and the pursuit of happiness is the right of every man, woman and child, and where everyone is equal under the law.
These ideals have attracted people to our nation for hundreds of years, to pursue the American dream…. a vision of peace and prosperity for all those willing to work for it and add their special talents to our culturally diverse country. The World of Hope sees the reality that for every act of violence and hatred in our country, there are 100 examples of human kindness and everyday decency that never gets reported by the news.
Does this view I paint of “the World of Hope” ban all guns, as some gun rights advocates would have you believe? No, it doesn’t. We support responsible gun ownership. It does recognize that there are some dangers in the world, and it is also everyoneʼs right to own a gun for self-protection, if one feels the need.
However, in the World of Hope, all gun ownership comes with great responsibility:
*To go through a rigid gun safety training course
*To go through a psychological exam as being fit to own a weapon
*To be required to have the gun locked up unloaded in a home with children
*To have a Universal Background Check law in place for ALL gun sales –public and private
*To have strong laws in place to combat illegal guns in the cities
In short, the “Land of Hope” does everything possible and responsible as a society to keep guns out of the hands of those who should NEVER have a gun.
Eight years ago, a mixed race relatively young man ran for President painting a vision of Hope and Change. This year, for the first time ever, we have a Presidential nominee who makes Gun Violence Prevention a major plank of her platform. This inspires in me a sense of Hope that we can really tackle some of the gun violence problems that are plaguing our nation once she gets elected.
Like President Obama and Martin Luther King, I believe the arch of justice bends towards progress. We can’t go back in time to a better vision of America that did not exist. However, we can overcome fear and live in a World of Hope which — if everyone here truly spreads this message, strives for constructive communication and celebrates our diversity — can help bring about a more peaceful world.