Columbine Shooting and Relation to Gun Violence in America in Bowling for Columbine

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“It was the morning of April 20th, 1999, and it was pretty much like any other morning in America…And out in Littleton, Colorado, two boys went bowling at six in the morning. Yes, it was a typical day in the United States of America.” (Moore, Michael. Bowling for Columbine) Bowling for Columbine, a 2002 American film and documentary, which is written, produced, acted, narrated, and directed by Michael Moore, is centered on a mass school shooting that transpired later that April day. It was perpetrated by the two boys and became one of the worst shootings of the time that shook the nation. The Columbine Shooting serves as a symbol or microcosm of what can happen at any place in America, at any time. The shooting acts as a focal point for Moore to delve deeper into the root of gun violence in the United States. With this respect, he addresses a concern and makes it a concern for America.

The documentary deviates from a normal plot structure in that it touches on a variety of topics and uses a variety of mediums. Moore uses a variety of compelling, gripping, and captivating footage, media, and film techniques including interviews, cartoons, stock footage and ultimately uses these to spur the audience to fear. He broaches a wide scope of topics (that may or may not have an influence on gun violence) including laws, politicians, banks, the environment, stigma and labeling, media, the 2nd Amendment, American history, the Mafia and militia, poverty, crime, the NRA, powerful corporations, fear, lack of parental supervision, gun possession, and bowling. However, he fails to discuss these in depth and instead plays on the fact that most viewers will not look up the facts or fact check. He doesn’t delve into the facts/gist. Never really expounds. The lack of true facts also causes the audience to leave with a false sense. The film’s ubiquity may cause the audience to be confused? In doing so, he loses a sense of credibility and generates emotions more than action. The film lacks clear direction? President of NRA, Marilyn Manson. And logos > Comparison with Canada, what makes the United States so unique?

Moore challenges middle-class Americans to think about gun violence through effective use of rhetoric delivered through a series of montages. In creating the film, Moore hoped to create public interest and address the occurrence of mass gun violence and access to guns in the United States. He engages viewers with conflicting, sometimes ambiguous, and irrational viewpoints that ultimately create public interest and cause the American middle class to think about the significant issue of gun violence. Parts, where it’s anti-logic,> but it sticks with you. He employs powerful use of rhetoric with ethos, logos, and pathos.

While the Columbine Shooting was met with shock, generated an outpouring of emotions, and instigated a chain reaction of increased security at schools, the way people react to this type of violence now is different. Mass gun violence and gun shootings have increased since 1999, yet it is ironically met with less shock and anger. The Columbine Shooting has been superseded by deadlier mass shootings. With the prevalence of gun violence in American society, the film remains relevant to Americans in the present. [so it generates fear with relation to today which spurs people to action] Moore uses the film to raise awareness for gun violence > generate fear > cause people to address the issue. It is his effective use of rhetoric with logos, pathos, and ethos that ultimately drives the film forward. The 2-hour film is packed with an abundance of rhetoric.

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Moore draws middle class Americans to fear and, consequently action, by appealing to their emotions in pathos through vivid images and scenarios. Moore employs pathos that spark What pathos means to Americans. Moore uses it to push us to action. In one of the earliest scenes of the documentary, Moore evokes feelings of disbelief when he walks out of a bank with a gun. Moore narrates “he had spotted an ad in the local Michigan paper which said if you opened an account at North Country Bank, they would give him a gun.” (Moore, Michael. Bowling for Columbine) The audience has to analyze that the ad attracts people and in a way, is used for profit. The film keeps the audience engaged by asking them to work as they watch. At the bank, the audience is prompted to bafflement when they learn the bank is also a licensed firearm dealer with at least 500 firearms kept in a vault. While filling out paperwork, Moore interjects humour when he questions the meaning of the “adjudicated mentally defective”. (Moore, Michael. Bowling for Columbine) The bank representative replies that it is correlated with a crime. Moore comes back with, “What if I am normally mentally defective but not criminal?” (Moore, Michael. Bowling for Columbine) leading the audience to ponder whether or not those who are mentally defective are authorized to own guns. Some details are left out, such as the $900 deposit fee and processing time. By leaving out some of these details, Moore manipulates the audience, leaving them with an incredulous feeling that he walked out of the bank with a gun that easy. The scene quickly transitions to the next scene wherein a representative hands Moore the rifle and Moore mimics loading and shooting the rifle. The audience is prompted to fear as they realize anyone can get a gun and start shooting. Moore employs satire when he asks the question over the narration, “Do you think it is a little dangerous handing out guns at a bank?” (Moore, Michael. Bowling for Columbine) The audience is infused with paranoia as they make the connection that a bank, which is a product of the government is an avenue for obtaining guns, a source of violence. He effectively uses pathos to generate fear and the feeling that getting a gun is easy and skilfully alludes to how the common American citizen can easily obtain a gun.

In an interview with James Nichols, Moore addresses the 2nd amendments guarantee off the right to bear arms and the reason behind the need to bear arms. Through subtle use of narration, word play, low-key lighting, humour, and indirect questions, Moore portrays Nichol’s views in a negative way and elicits feelings of discontent and skepticism in the audience. Moore first pictures James Nichols as a food farmer and chats about the produce and farm. He then interjects that James Nichols and Terry Nichols were charged and arrested for making practice bombs on the farm in connection to the Oklahoma city bombing that claimed 168 lives and convicted Terry Nichols for life, and Timothy McVeigh. However, the federal government could not find evidence for James Nichols and the charges were dropped. While outside, Moore asks if they (the federal government) found anything on the farm. He leaves the question vague and open for response. Nichols replies,” Um, yeah. blasting caps, dynamite blasting caps, dynamite fuse, black powder, you know, for muzzle-loaders…” (Moore, Michael. Bowling for Columbine) With that statement, the audience is filled with skepticism. The scene changes location to a dimly lit dining room in James Nichols house, where Nichols vents on how the government has enslaved the the people and how a government turned tyrannical should be overthrown. The dark hues of the scene and existence of shadows casts a mysterious mood and increases the suspense and tension. In response, Moore drops a thought-provoking question when he asks Nichols, “Why not use Gandhi’s way? He didn’t have any guns, and he beat the British Empire.” Nichols replies, “I’m not familiar with that.” (Moore, Michael. Bowling for Columbine)

The audience is left to ponder the need for guns and the way in which guns are wielded to accomplish one’s agenda. The documentary then diverts to another scene before coming back to James Nichols. Moore asks Nichols if he believes it was right to blow up the building in Oklahoma city and why it was blown up. Moments later Nichols remarks, “I use the pen because the pen is mightier than the sword. But you always must keep a sword handy for when the pen fails. I sleep with a. 44 Magnum under my pillow…” (Moore, Michael. Bowling for Columbine) Moore expresses disbelief and Nichols takes him to the bedroom to show him but requests the camera be left outside. In the bedroom viewers are led to deduce through the conversation that Nichols puts the gun to his head. At this point, the audience is swayed to question Nichols’ sanity. “No-one has a right to tell me that I can’t have it. That is protected under our Constitution,” Nichols says. “Where does it say a handgun is protected?” (Moore, Michael. Bowling for Columbine) Through the ongoing dialogue, the audience is incited to question the meaning of “arms” and it’s correlation to gun prevalence and violence. Viewers realize that a person in that emotional state is allowed to have a gun in their possession and that these type of people could live right next to you? Moore asks, “Do you think you should have the right to have weapons-grade plutonium here on the farm?” Nichols is placed in a corner and says that, “He doesn’t want it,” before later saying, “that should be restricted.” Moore confirms, “So you believe in some restrictions?” Nichols replies, “Well there are wackos out there.” (Moore, Michael. Bowling for Columbine) With this statement, the audience is prompted to identify the irony within the sentence.

In one of the most moving and captivating parts of the documentary, Moore introduces Richard Costaldo and Mark Taylor, survivors and victims of the Columbine shooting. He evokes empathy from the audience by describing the bullets sold at 17 cents each at K-Mart and draws a correlation between those bullets and the bullets that are embedded in the bodies of the kids that leaves one in a wheelchair and the other barely walking. Moore takes them to K-Mart where they ask to speak to Chuck Conaway, the CEO of the company, to request the discontinuation of the sale of 9mm bullets. When the group is met with a Kmart representative, told that Conaway is gone, and their questions deflected, the audience is led to feel dejected. The audience empathizes with the group who had just traveled a long way and were hoping for answers but were met with rejection. The following day when Lori McTavish, the vice president of communications for K-Mart delivers a speech that Kmart would be phasing out handgun ammunition within the continental US in the next 90 days, the audience resonates with the group with feelings of elation. The audience feels that there is hope for change to be accomplished, (the audience feels that there is hope for change even if it takes small steps) (the audience feels that change can be accomplished even if it takes small steps) even if it’s through small steps. Through effective use of pathos, Moore impacts the audience to action through fear to address the concern of gun violence.

Throughout the film, Moore makes multiple mention of the NRA or the National Rifle Association and portrays them in a cynical way. Towards the end of the film, Moore interviews Charlton Heston, the president of the NRA from 1998 to 2003. He first mentions Heston when he tells the audience that he grew up in Michigan, “And so did this man – Oscar winning actor and president of the NRA, Mr. Charlton Heston.” “Not far from where Charles Heston and I grew up is the Michigan militia…” Heston makes his first appearance in the film right after the actual footage of the Columbine shooting. Moore makes a sharp transition from the emotional scene of the shooting and the horror experienced by the survivors to a rage-filled, callous scene of Heston shouting “from my cold, dead hands!” with a rifle above his head, in front of a massive logo of the NRA (official looking). NRA is an authoritative organization. How does Moore use ethos? He portrays this organization and portrays them in a way that damages the credibility, reliability, and integrity of the NRA. The massive contrast between scenes. Why? People hurting. People died. Then there’s this man advocating guns like a madman. So what does it do? It makes Heston a symbol of the NRA and it makes him and the NRA look bad, like they don’t care at all, lack of empathy. Moore narrates and explains to the audience, “Despite the pleas of the community in mourning, Charlton Heston came to Denver and held a large pro gun rally for the NRA.” The audience is led to feel anger at the NRA and question why they would do that?” Makes them lose trust in the NRA. He mentions that Mr. Wellington Webb, mayor of Denver, Colorado had told Heston not to come to Denver. Then he interjects another line, “As Americans we are free to travel wherever we want in our broad land.” It generates questions in the audience if we are abusing our freedoms and if Americans have a lack of sensitivity and just promote one’s goals? Later on in the film after the shooting of Kayla Rolland Provide background. In first grade. Six year old kills six year old. “From my cold dead hands…Just as he did after the Columbine shooting, Charlton Heston showed up in Flint to have a big pro-gun rally.” Interview: “There were groups affiliated with the NRA that were you know people that I’d call gun nuts writing and telling what a horrible thing it was that I had admonished homeonwers in our country about bringing weapons into our home. They wanted this little boy hung from the highest tree.” The Columbine Shooting caused many to speculate on the causes of this kind of violence.

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