“How we burned in the prison camps later thinking: What would things have been like if every Security Operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive?” -Aleksandr Isaevich Solzshenitsyn
I saw Michael Moore’s bomb throwing documentary “Bowling for Columbine” last week. It was powerful, thought provoking, funny, disturbing, manipulative, self-serving, sanctimonious, dishonest, moving, heartbreaking, and infuriating. To appreciate the experience you must keep in mind that Michael Moore, although motivated by a genuine desire to make the world a better place, is full of shit. Just as full of it as the sitting ducks he targets in his film. Moore takes on the question of guns and violence with scant regard for disciplined arguments or ethical journalism.
Like a tabloid news producer or hack local TV reporter, Moore specializes in the film crew ambush interview. To get his interview with NRA spokesman Charlton Heston he tells him “I’m a lifetime member of the NRA.” In the interview he then badgers Heston with questions that are more like accusations. Moore finally whips out a picture of a six-year old killed in a horrifying shooting and literally lays it at Heston’s feet. Wow! Look how he put down that polite, sick old man. What drama, what pain, what a stunning performance. What a mean, pious, self-serving crock. Why didn’t Moore interview the guy who left the gun laying around for the six-year-old to pick up?
He uses his camera like a stripper using a big balloon, alternating between personal mugging all cute and cuddly and careful editing to make his victims look like buffoons or crack pots. There are thousands of articulate, knowledgeable supporters of the 2nd amendment who he could have interviewed but interviewing one of them wouldn’t fit his agenda.
Dishonest from the start Michael gets a “free” gun for opening an account at a Michigan bank. He gets his gun then asks “Don’t you think this is kind of dangerous?” He knows it’s not dangerous. He knows he just bought the gun from a licensed dealer. He knows it cost him the use of $10,000 for a few years. But he would have us believe he got the weapon instead of a toaster for opening a $100 checking account.
He ambushes some K Mart execs because the bullets used in the Columbine shootings were purchased at K Mart. He wants them to stop selling bullets and, surprisingly, rather than tell him that selling bullets is not the same as shooting people, they agree to stop. Not because they’ve had a change of heart, but because they were backed into a corner and obviously felt compassion for the unlucky Columbine victims that Moore towed along for their powerful PR value. Moore’s victory for victim disarmament is a victory for cheap publicity stunts not high-minded social activism. If Ben & Jerry stopped selling ice cream would Michael Moore still be fat?
My purpose in starting with this movie was to address its conclusions. Moore clearly believes that restricting gun ownership would reduce violence in the United States. He misuses statistics to make his case, but proves his own argument wrong in comparing Canadians and Americans. He grants that Canadians have nearly as many guns as Americans do but have a fraction of the gun violence. So I guess it’s not the guns, eh?
The Swiss, New Zealanders, and Finns all own guns as frequently as Americans, yet in 1995 Switzerland had a murder rate 40 percent lower than Germany's, and New Zealand had one lower than Australia's. Finland and Sweden have very different gun ownership rates, but very similar murder rates. Israel, with a higher gun ownership rate than the U.S., has a murder rate 40 percent below Canada's. When one studies all countries there is absolutely no relationship between gun ownership and murder.
At the most basic level, the arguments for censorship under the First Amendment and the arguments for "gun control" under the Second are the same. Both involve prior restraint on liberty, and both rest on a paternalistic assumption that you, as a private citizen, cannot be trusted to act responsibly. Underlying both is the assumption that officials of the state will wisely exercise liberties which are denied to the public. The assumption is that public officials can be trusted not to abuse their power, or be corrupted by it, in ways which mere mortals like you and me cannot. To defend censorship or to defend "gun control," is to assert there ought to be some people who are "more free" than others, and that second-class citizenship for all but government employees is desirable. Such elitism has no place among those who value equality before the law.
But more importantly we must consider the big picture when considering gun violence and the potential for evil and murder on a massive scale. Moore in his film treated us to lots of scary clips of German, Japanese, and various unnamed soldiers murdering unarmed citizens. He never points out the horrendous genocidal acts of those governments were carried out against disarmed populations. If we let murder statistics form our opinions the number of murders committed by armed governments against unarmed citizens dwarfs any amount of violence committed by private citizens against one another.
Ultimately the second amendment was made part of the Bill of Rights to protect us from tyranny in government. The Founders of our republic knew that granting any government (even an elected one) a monopoly of force is risky, and a sure recipe for eventual tyranny. That is the real reason for the existence of the Second Amendment. Our history suggests that it has been an effective deterrent to the kinds of tyranny and genocide which have arisen even in some so-called "civilized" countries of the world.
Although governments have tremendous destructive power, tyranny must still be imposed at ground level. Technology has made it far easier to kill people than to enslave them. Small arms are still sufficient to tip the balance in favor of survival, liberty and eventual victory.