In 1999, two Columbine High School senior students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, perpetrated a school shooting in Columbine, Colorado that killed 12 students and one teacher and injured an additional 21 people. The perpetrators used handguns and shotguns to murder their victims. The shooting is seen as the deadliest high school shooting in American history. The tragedy that took place at Columbine High School sparked a national debate over gun control laws in the United States.
Michael Moore's 2002 documentary Bowling for Columbine explores what may have caused the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School and other mass shootings in the United States. The Academy Award winning film has since received high critical acclaim and is considered by many to be one of the greatest documentaries ever made.
If more guns make people safer, then America would be one of the safest countries in the world. It isn't. It's the opposite.
Throughout the film, Moore showcases how easy it is to gain access to guns in America. Moore begins the film at a bank, where he is given a free hunting rifle as a gift for making a deposit. At the time of the film, Moore reports the following statistics for gun-related deaths per year in various countries:
- Japan: 39 (0.030/100,000)
- Australia: 65 (0.292/100,000)
- United Kingdom: 68 (0.109/100,000)
- Canada: 165 (0.484/100,000)
- France: 255 (0.389/100,000)
- Germany: 381 (0.466/100,000)
- United States: 11,127 (3.601/100,000)
When asking a Canadian citizen why they think there is a gun problem in the United States, Moore is given the answer, "If more guns make people safer, then America would be one of the safest countries in the world. It isn't. It's the opposite." Although the statement is true, Canada has similar gun laws to the United States. Moore theorizes that the "climate of fear" in the United States is to blame for the multitude of gun violence in the country. Moore finds that there is less fear in Canada. He finds that unlike Americans, many Canadians keep their doors unlocked. In contrast, Moore finds that the American media drives fear into society, and he blames that for America's gun epidemic.
Gun Violence in America Since Columbine
17 years later, gun violence still remains a huge issue in the United States. Since the 1999 school shooting at Combine High School, 50 mass murders or attempted mass murders have occurred in American schools, resulting in the deaths of 141 people.
On December 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza murdered 20 children and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The mass shooting at Sandy Hook renewed the debate over gun control and pushed new proposals for legislation that expanded background-checks and banned semi-automatic firearms. In 2013, President Obama signed 23 executive orders and proposed 12 congressional actions on gun control. Despite public outcry for new legislation on gun control, proposals expanding background-checks and banning assault rifles were both defeated in the Senate.
On June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen murdered 49 people and injured 53 others using a semi-automatic rifle at Pulse, a gay club in Orlando, Florida. The shooting became the largest mass shooting by a single shooter in American history. Despite previously being on the FBI terrorist watch list, Mateen was able to legally obtain his weapons. The mass shooting led to a sit-in from 60 legislators of the House of Representatives demanding gun safety legislation. Despite the sit-in and public demand for change, the senate rejected a series of gun safety measures.