One thousand students viewed Michael Moore’s latest documentary, “Bowling for Columbine” on Tuesday night. The film was thought provoking, but for this student it did not cause a great epiphany in regards to gun control. Instead I came to the conclusion that those who head the gun control movement have dumbed down their arguments to engender mass appeal.
In Moore’s film he pretends to allow the viewer to answer the question of why the United States suffers from 11,000 plus gun deaths per year, while other liberal democracies, such as Great Britain and Canada, do not. But Moore does not deliver a balanced debate.
Moore makes his points by broadcasting extraordinary cases and showing tear-jerking scenes of the evil that guns can do. He makes emotional appeals to sentimental college students and frames arguments as if the gun debate is between those who want to save lives and those who want to kill people. No issue is that simple and allowing your viewer to think that way is dangerous.
The people he chooses to represent the pro-gun side are members of militias, a relative of the homegrown terrorist Terry Nichols and Charlton Heston, who has Alzheimer’s disease. Moore has no qualms about badgering a man whose brain is scattered. Moore does not point out that there are in fact many articulate defenders of the Second Amendment. People like Stephen Halbrook, Wayne LaPierre and rock guitarist Ted Nugent can go head-to-head with Moore any day.
“Bowling for Columbine” is supposed to be an intellectual argument against whatever it is that makes Americans kill each other but instead combines easy answers with heart-breaking images. If 11,000 Americans die each year because of guns, then why doesn’t Moore explain the circumstances behind these deaths? Each year 800,000 Americans defend their homes with firearms. Is it possible that a good percentage of the gun deaths come from homeowners killing intruders? Is it also possible that there are deaths because a thug who has a weapon invades a home and the homeowner does not have a firearm to protect his or her life?
The United States is also a country of 280 million people. Moore claims that in other democratic countries there are only a few hundred gun-deaths a year. However, these countries typically have populations of 40 and 50 million. When you take into account our population difference, Moore’s logic comes into question.
Michael Moore fails to see that many Americans see political views on an individual level. People are busy running their day to day lives and ultimately the issues that matter most to them are matters of personal and filial security.
To many, gun control is analogous to abortion for feminists. Like eliminating legalized abortion, owning a weapon gives someone the sense of autonomy over his or her personal affairs. And if you think using a weapon as a metaphor for autonomy is a revolting idea, think of how pro-lifers view abortion when proponents argue it as empowerment for women.
It is en vogue these days to declare that in the wake of Sept. 11 we need to make sure our civil liberties remain intact. But would the same people who believe that agree when I say that in the wake of Columbine, we need to make sure our Second Amendment rights remain intact? Most likely not, because many do not associate firearm ownership with other fundamental civil liberties. The right to own a weapon is something I am grateful to our founders for. When people like Michael Moore make films that threaten my rights, I am inclined to quote Charlton Heston and say “from my cold, dead hands