Tom's reaction to "Bowling for Columbine"

A new documentary movie that includes the Columbine tragedy has hit the movie circuit (mostly at 'art flick' venues, but also at some mainstream theaters). "Bowling for Columbine" was written and directed by Michael Moore, a liberal, in-your-face documentary filmmaker particularly known for the film "Roger and Me," a tough look at General Motors and corporate America.

Some might say I am biased in favor of the film because I appear in it briefly. Not so. If it was lousy or exploitative, I would say so. But, on the contrary, I highly recommend this film to those who are serious about examining what's happening in America, with its disgraceful rate of gun violence.

I appreciate this film because it asks questions about America's problem with gun violence. One of the best moments for me was the film showing in bold, stark print the numbers of American gun murders compared to a sampling of other Free World countries, then asking WHY our numbers are SO much higher. I think many Americans are just so unaware of these shameful numbers. Moore didn't imply the guns themselves were the cause--for example, he said Canadians have lots of guns, also, but they don't murder each other like we do.

But this movie doesn't make a specific call for gun control. Moore himself grew up in Michigan, a big hunting state, where he was an award winning junior marksman and is now a lifetime NRA member. This movie, while questioning America's gun culture, tends more to look at WHY we're so violent. In doing so it usually reflects the views and theories of Moore himself. In some cases I think his points are weak or off-base (such as tying the Columbine violence to the fact Colorado is home to military bases and bomb makers.) But at least it asks tough questions we ought to be asking.

The film does have a few disturbing scenes, including the sound of Columbine 911 tapes, video of teens fleeing the Columbine cafeteria, and chilling footage of Harris & Klebold roaming carefree through the cafeteria (after they murdered Daniel and other teens in the library). It's disturbing for some people, but we have to face the reality of gun violence if we want to do something about it. This isn't a TV show, it's real. To me, the evening news is often just as disturbing as this film, and more bothersome is the reckless portrayal of violence in our movies.
Some will (and have) said that "Bowling for Columbine" exploits Columbine for its own purposes and profit. But this film isn't all about Columbine--just a part. I contend that exploitation is found in movies that glorify and dehumanize gun violence. Exploitation is, as portrayed in this movie, having Charlton Heston and the NRA rushing in with a press conference/rally in Flint, Michgan right after a first grader was shot by another first grader. This documentary doesn't exploit, it explores and challenges. Some people just aren't up to the challenge-they want to deny and ignore the issue.

The film includes a brief clip of my interview with Michael Moore, as well as footage from my speech at the protest of the NRA Convention 11 days after Columbine. It also has a funny and, at times chilling, interview with James Nichols, brother of Oklahoma City bombing co-conspirator Terry Nichols. It includes an awkward interview with Charlton Heston. And it has the amazing story of two Columbine shooting victims (Richard Castaldo and Mark Taylor) going to KMart headquarters to ask Kmart to stop selling bullets. (They were shot with bullets bought at Kmart.) And they were successful!

This movie has some hilarious moments. They aren't scripted as comedy--mostly we're laughing at Moore's sarcastic wit, at our own frailties, and at the irony of the situations presented by Moore.

The title of the film refers to the fact that Harris and Klebold, the killers at Columbine, belonged to a bowling class at Columbine and attended that class the day of their massacre. He weaves in the irony of the bowling class in a few places, ending with the fact that three employees were shot and murdered at a Littleton bowling alley just a few months before the folm was released, as just another statistic in this shameful and often forgotten record of gun deaths.

So why DO we shoot each other like we do? Moore offers some theories, some of which I think hold some water. Go see the movie for yourself. I'll be discussing some of those things on this web site over time.

Tom Mauser

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