Belated Film Review: The Always-Important Message of ‘Bowling for Columbine’

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by Connor Foote

Lotus Land Correspondent, White Cover Magazine

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Bowling for Columbine is set around the morning of April 20, 1999, when two students at Columbine High School in blew away 12 students and a teacher with assault weapons. The film takes aim — pun intended — at the larger topic of gun control and ownership, which has surfaced yet again. And, again. And, again. So, it’s perennially relevant.

It’s Michael Moore’s intro, however, that really grabs you and hangs onto you like a crocodile in an Australian swamp. Moore heads into a bank in Michigan that was offering a free gun with a new bank account and then has to fill out a release form and a written background check. As in, here are a series of YES or NO questions that you must answer correctly.

“Have you ever been an adjudicated mental defective or been committed to a mental institution?” he reads from the questionnaire. “What does that mean… adjudicated mentally defective?”

“Something involved with a crime,” the bank employee asks.

“Oh, with a crime… oh, okay. So, if I’m just normally mentally defective but not criminal (then it’s okay)?”

“Yeah, exactly.”

And, that’s where we sit now. We sit idle as a town in Connecticut — another damn town riddled with both tragedy and bullets — still mourns and decides how to pull itself and its citizens together. It’s easy to call them retards or psychos, and it’s easy to blame these incidents on a lack of God or sin or evil, but that’s evading the point. You can argue that people kill people, but in what world would an increase in guns make us safer or protected?

If you ask someone like myself, blaming or using God as an excuse for anything is about as psychopathic as anything else out there. I have enough trouble putting so-called faith into Imaginary Friends sitting on clouds. I have an even bigger problem hearing others speak of God like he’s real or visibly active in our daily lives. He’s a convenient scapegoat. The ultimate practice of hedging your bets.

Of course, I don’t believe in God, and I’m never had murderous thoughts. I’ve never wanted to commit a violent crime. Never wanted to go to war or rob a bank or shoot up someone who had something I wanted. I know it takes a gun to do all those things. And, I know there are plenty of God-fearing-folk who’ve committed any of the above.

As Moore astutely points out, we’re afraid of each other. We’re searching out defence from our neighbours. Sometimes our friends and family.

America has long been governed and restrained by fear and a lack of rationality.

Only lately — and Moore is speaking in 2002 — has the country become consumed by it and ruled by it.

“If you’re not armed, you’re not responsible,” says a member of a Michigan militia troupe not longer after the first scene in the bank. “Who’s gonna protect you and your family?”

From what? From someone else with a gun?

“I’ve made the film I wanted to make with Bowling for Columbine,” said Moore, just a month ago on January 10, 2013. “Every word in it stands true to this day, which is the saddest thing.”