Michael Moore’s documentary Bowling for Columbine has at its core the horrendous events that occurred at Columbine High School in 1999 when two students killed and injured both peers and a staff member on campus. However, Moore uses this tragedy as a starting point to explore the United States’ history and culture of violence and other important social issues such as gun control. Moore delivers definite statements about this issue and manipulates aspects such as film language and selection of detail to position viewers to accept his social commentary.
One issue Moore chooses to focus on is gun related crime and violence / gun control and ownership laws in the United States. A number of aspects within the documentary relate to this issue, an early scene depicts how Moore discovered a bank in Michigan that would give customers a free hunting rifle when they open a new bank account. Moore goes into the bank, fills out the paper work, and receives the gun without any major expectations or tests. Moore then interviews the local militia, they believe that it is the responsibility of an American citizen to own a gun and protect them selves. After that, he interviews a man named James Nichols, and shows that he isn’t mentally stable. Towards the end of the interview Nichols shows Moore a loaded gun that he sleeps with under his pillow, he then puts the cocked gun to his temple, Moore tells him not to, and Nichols just laughs and says “Its loaded, its safe”. This shows how lenient laws are concerning guns, and how easily it is for any American to obtain a gun. Michael Moore sees this issue in relation to gun laws, as unacceptable and irresponsible. Moore makes the point that James Nichols is not the only person like him who has easy and legal access to a deadly firearm.
At the centre of the documentary, Moore tells the story of the horrific events that occurred at Columbine high school on the 20th of April 1999. Two senior students embarked on a shooting spree in which a total of 12 students and one teacher were murdered. They also injured 21 other students directly, with 3 further people being injured while attempting to escape the school. The pair then committed suicide. In this scene it shows the school camera footage of the shooting, while 911 calls are playing over the top. This horrific scene shocks the viewer and positions them to feel sympathy towards the victims of the shooting, and shows them how bad gun violence really is. The shooting sparked debate over gun control laws, the availability of firearms within the United States and gun violence involving youths. Moore makes the point that if guns/ammunition were not so easily obtained by youth, this shooting most likely would have never occurred.
Towards the end, Moore takes two Columbine victims, Mark and Richard to Kmart headquarters in Troy, Michigan, to claim a refund on the bullets still in their bodies. After a number of attempts to evade the issue, Moore and the victims then go to the nearest Kmart store, purchase all of their ammunition, and return the next day with several members of the media. Moore is extremely effective in using the media to get his point across, to the point of shaming this large corporation into submission. A Kmart spokesperson then says that the firm will change its policy and will no longer be selling handgun ammunition in 90 days. Moore shows the viewers that us citizens can make a difference, we are not helpless against corporations’ and the government, we can make a change in the world.
Moore makes the point that laws in the U.S are way to lenient on gun control. Children and any adult without justification can purchase guns and they all stand behind the fact that the U.S's second amendment gives them the right to arms.
Moore's following point is that as a result of the lenient gun laws what you're left with is a nation of millions of gun owners who have access to deadly