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Seeking answers: Bowling for Columbine

by Yonie K. Espiritu, associate editor


In early October, Micheal Moore released his latest documentary, Bowling for Columbine. In it Moore, America’s most controversial documentarian, examines Americas attitudes towards guns in attempt to determine if this attitude causes Americans penchant for violence.

This 120-minute full-length film, proves to be hilarious as well as sorrowful, and may be Moore’s best. It won the 2002 Cannes Film Festival Best Screenplay and earned a three-and-a-half star rating from Roger Ebert.

Micheal Moore


On his first stop, Michigan, Moore chats with the “Michigan Militia,” a group of Americans who are motivated by patriotism and who claim to be America’s last line of homeland defense.

Moore attempts to understand their casual attitudes towards guns, and fails. But, he uses this opportunity to highlight a group of Americans who are responsible, whose guns are registered, and who are trained in using rifles. Although he will later develop an argument against gun ownership, this segment give the film balance.

Moore next investigates the death of a six-year-old Michigan girl who was killed by a six- year-old classmate who had brought a gun to class.

After asking questions in the youngster’s community, Moore finds out how the six year-old boy came to posses the weapon. His mother needed to work eight hours a day to avoid being evicted and another eight (total: 16 hours a day) to pay back welfare, which is a policy in Michigan. She needed someone to be with the child during the day, and sent him to live with her brother. Her brother had no children and, therefore, didn’t keep the weapon in a secure place.

Curious like all children, the boy found the weapon and brought it to school. His motives remain unknown. This is one, of the two cases that Moore uses to prove that although a gun may be registered, it can still get into irresponsible hands.

Moore next visits the site of the infamous 1999 Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. As in Michigan, he learns that the guns in the Columbine incident weren’t used by their registered owners and the motives of the users remain essentially unknown.

At this point, the audience begins to recognize that the motives of killers are irrelevant and the availability of these rifles seem to be the bigger issue.

As Moore’s argument builds, he makes a stop in Canada to ask: why, in a country with seven million rifles, in 10 million households, is the gun-death rate only a fraction of America’s? He visits a Canadian city, across the river from Detroit, and notices that a lot of Americans enjoy the atmosphere there, more than at home. The Americans felt that life at home is just too tense, while Canadians are laid back and really value all aspects of life. He also interviews some Canadians who feel that America should worry more about health care than making guns accessible to “violent Americans.”

“The government should be responsible for your health care, it’s everyone’s fundamental right to live,” said a Canadian, in an on-the-street interview.

The underlying plot of the documentary is the fact that Moore wants to share his discoveries with Charlton Heston (President of the Nation Rifle Association, NRA). Throughout the movie, he makes reference to Heston visiting Michigan and Colorado only days after their tragedies happened, to hold a NRA press conferences at which he tried to further the validity of the association. Finally, Moore confronts Heston about his “insensitive actions” and asks him why he thinks America has the highest gun-death rate in the world.

Heston blames America’s problem of the violence on “the ethnic diversity of this country,” and ends the meeting directly after that question. Moore leaves the audience wondering: if this man is the president of the NRA, shouldn’t he at least have an understanding of what causes the reckless use of weapons?

Moore places the picture of the six-year-old girl who was killed by her classmate in Heston’s garage. Moore attempts to speak with Dick Clark, chats with Matt Stone , co-creator of South Park, and puts James Nichols on the spot (the brother of convicted Oklahoma bomber Terry Nichols).

He interviews international rock-star Marilyn Manson, who seemed to provide the best explanation for America’s violence. When asked what he would say to the Columbine students, who looked up to the singer, that shot their classmates, Manson said, “ I wouldn’t say anything, I’d listen, because obviously no one did if they felt this was the only way they could get their message across.”




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