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Bowling for Columbine

Bowling for Columbine is a documentary film starring Michael Moore. It opened on October 11, 2002.

Taking the Columbine High School massacre as a starting point, the film is a personal and artistic exploration of the nature of violence in the United States consisting of clips from gun advertisements, satirical animations about North American history and Moore's discussions with various people, including Charlton Heston and Marilyn Manson. Moore seeks to answer, in his own unique, muckraking style, the questions of why the Columbine massacre occurred, and why the United States is more violent than other democratic states, including, in particular, Germany, France, Japan, the United Kingdom and especially Canada.

Moore argues that the higher gun-related homicide rate in the United States is not due to the number of guns there, since, Moore states, Canada also has a large number of guns and yet is a less violent society. Moore then inquires, if it is not the amount of guns in American society, what else could the cause be? He tackles other possible suggestions, such as the nation's violent past in subjugating the Native Americans, but he argues that other nations with violent histories, such as Germany and Japan, nevertheless have fewer murders per capita than the United States does. He also examines American militarism, and takes a personal look at the ways that American society has a reduced "social safety net" to take care of its citizens, compared to other countries. He also explores the relationship between American racism and fear of its black population and whether this contributes to the rate of gun ownership and violence.

In the end, although he does explore various possible answers to his question, he comes to no clear answers. He does suggest that one possible cause of the problem is that Americans live in an unreasonable amount of fear, although he doesn't make any serious attempt to quantify fear or prove that Americans are in fact more afraid than citizens of other countries. He pillories the media for excessive and overly dramatic coverage of violent crime.

The film won the 55th Anniversary Prize at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival. It received a 13-minute standing ovation at the end of its screening at Cannes.

Table of contents

Criticism There has been criticism from both pro-gun and anti-gun groups. The pro-gun lobby disagrees with Moore's portrayal of the US as a more violent nation, despite higher homicide rates in the United States in comparison to other Western countries. Anti-gun groups argue that it is the higher rates of gun ownership, especially handgun ownership, that are almost solely to blame for the higher per capita homicide in the US.

In particular, high gun ownership in Canada and some other countries is mainly related to hunting rifles, which are stringently regulated by the government, and mostly owned by people in small towns and rural areas. By contrast, gun deaths in the U.S. are related to hand guns in inner cities. It remains true that in virtually no other industrialized nation is it as easy as in the U.S. for a city dweller to legally purchase a hand gun. In Bowling for Columbine, Moore claims that it is easy to buy guns in Canada too, and "proves" this by buying some ammunition; in reality, the purchase of a hunting rifle is well regulated in Canada, and to obtain a hand gun is essentially not possible by legal means. Critics say that Moore failed to relate guns to gun related crime.

In addition some have claimed that scenes that appear spontaneous in the documentary, are in fact carefully staged. The same was said about his earlier documentary, Roger & Me.

Critics also claim that Moore makes misleading statements in the movie. For example, Moore conducted an interview with Evan McCollum, Director of Communications at a Lockheed-Martin plant near Columbine, and asked him, "So you don't think our kids say to themselves, gee, dad goes off to the factory every day - he builds missiles. These are weapons of mass destruction." McCollum responded: "I guess I don't see that specific connection because the missiles are designed to defend us from somebody else who would be aggressors against us."

McCollum has later clarified that the plant he works for does not produce weapons at all, but rockets used for launching satellites. Indeed, the plant was also used to take former nuclear missiles out of service, converting decommissioned Titan missiles into satellite launch vehicles. Since the interview was conducted in the plant, and on the backdrop of these rockets, critics charge that Moore was misleading his viewers by implying (without saying so) that this particular plant produced missiles. Some critics have also incorrectly claimed that Moore actually makes that statement. However, he does not, which is why McCollum does not balk at his statement in the interview.

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