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Michael Moore’s perspective of the side effects of guns as shown in the Documentary Bowling for Columbine

My family has never had an issue with the second amendment, or firearms in general. In fact, my mom and her boyfriend each own a gun for defensive purposes. One of the first mature discussions I even had with my parents was about who or who not should own guns; we all agreed that people who are mentally unstable should not own one. This opinion of mine is one that has never changed since that discussion about five years ago. After all, why would you give a firearm to someone who is known to lash out and become very violent? After asking this rhetorical question to someone who is a gun-rights activist, they would probably still encourage that everyone should have a gun, and that there shouldn’t have to be more restrictions in order to get one.

Firearms are dangerous. There’s no question about it. But it is possible to make them less dangerous by keeping them out of the hands who will use it mainly to harm instead of defend. This is the message Michael Moore portrays in his documentary Bowling for Columbine. This film tries to convince guns-rights activists that the restrictions on guns are most definitely needed, using heavy sarcasm and clumps of satire to even try to make some of them look like morons. I feel as though that this was effective because even though it was sarcasm, it brings up valid points and expresses legitimate concern about the right to possess firearms in the United States. Though some may disagree with the information in this film, I agree with it entirely.

Throughout the film, Moore uses the Columbine High School shooting on April 20th, 1999 as an example of how dangerous firearms can be when they are given to the wrong hands. And when I say “given”, I mean given. The film opens with pathos and visual elements, showing Moore himself applying for a bank account at a bank (that was also a licensed firearms dealer) who was offering free guns to anyone who opened one. The fact that guns are so easy to obtain is pathos that used by Moore; it gets the audience to think, “wow, I wonder what lunatic in my city has obtained a gun that easily? What would they do with that kind of firepower?”. Moore continues to drive the audience into thoughts like the last one when he receives the rifle and begins pointing it around inside of the bank, giving the audience visual elements to add on to the already existing pathos.

Moore also uses elements of sarcasm to continue the film’s build on pathos. Various combinations of ironic visual and audio components prove this, such as “Happiness is a Warm Gun” by The Beatles, and “(What a) Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong as background music to videos of violent shootings and war, obviously contradicting each other. Playing joyous songs against the video of people being hurt and dying due to people shooting them with guns. This makes the audience feel as if guns don’t cause happiness or don’t make the world a better place at all, and they only harm others. This also makes gun rights activists look kind of silly, since they always say that guns are a basic human necessity/right, and that guns do less harm than what people believe.

Aside from the pathos, Moore uses elements of ethos as well, using a personal anecdote from a man who got expelled from a school. This man tells the director that he shot up a school, and also shows little remorse or regret in body language that he did. This makes the audience believe that mentally unstable people should not be able to obtain or use guns. Another personal anecdote of a man (with questionable mental stability) is also used, and his name is William Powell, author of The Anarchist Cookbook. Powell mentions that he literally sleeps with a gun, loaded in all its glory, and Moore asks for proof that he does. Though he doesn’t allow the cameras inside of his bedroom, Moore exclaims “don’t put the gun to your head!” and “don’t point that thing towards anyone!”, showing that he is putting himself and others in danger and risking lives. This makes the audience scared that this man doesn’t have the mental capacity to be handling a gun, even if it was for his own defense. It leads the audience on to wonder “I wonder how many people in America are like this?”

How does this relate to the Columbine High School shooting on April 20th, 1999, you ask? Well, on that specific day, two teenage students from that high school were responsible for that shooting. Police report that they used their legally obtained firearms to commit the crime. Two students killed 12 people and injured 30 others with both fully automatic and semi automatic firearms, that were able to be purchased legally. A parent of one of the deceased in the tragedy brings up a valid point that these automatic guns were obviously not purchased in the use of hunting–no automatic gun is necessary to take down a deer, and are unnecessary to be purchased by any means of recreation. This entire scenario makes the audience feel scared that this may happen to their own school nearby, especially of similar firearms can be legally purchased in that state by people of such mental instability.

However, there are some manipulation techniques, propaganda, and logical fallacies in this documentary. In manipulation techniques, there is story choice; Moore decides to elaborate on the Columbine High School shooting, which is a tragic event that can make people believe that guns aren’t necessary to most people. Moore also shows clips of war, shootings, and people getting harmed in order to get his point across. Yet, Moore also won Youth Marksman of the Year, which gave him a full ride scholarship to a community college, so he also knows both sides of the story. In propaganda, a technique he used is transfer; he interviews Marilyn Manson, who blames the actions of violence in today’s population on the President of the United States, moving the attention of one thing to something that is seemingly unrelated.

Despite these seemingly biased speculations, Moore brings up an excellent point throughout the film: guns are not for everyone. People who are mentally unstable should not own a gun, due to the violent actions that may take place. This film effectively delivers that point across to the audience. Maybe one day, the NRA will realize that their organization isn’t just about everyone owning guns, but it is about the people who do own them. And further on, maybe they will realize that not everyone who owns those guns should have the right to own them. The best case scenario is that people will have screenings that can determine whether or not they are mentally healthy enough to own a gun, and this could drastically decrease the violence, death, and school shootings, simply because the guns are, for the most part, out of the hands of the people who can not handle them.

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