“Bowling for Columbine” is an alternately humorous and horrifying film about the United States. It is a film about the state of the Union, about the violent soul of America. Why do 11,000 people die in America each year at the hands of gun violence? The talking heads yelling from every TV camera blame everything from Satan to video games. But are we that much different from many other countries? What sets us apart? How have we become both the master and victim of such enormous amounts of violence? This is not a film about gun control. It is a film about the fearful heart and soul of the United States, and the 280 million Americans lucky enough to have the right to a constitutionally protected Uzi.
Well of course it was staged! It’s a movie! We built the “bank” as a set and then I hired actors to play the bank tellers and the manager and we got a toy gun from the prop department and then I wrote some really cool dialogue for me and them to say! Pretty neat, huh?
In the spring of 2001, I saw a real ad in a real newspaper in Michigan announcing a real promotion that this real bank had where they would give you a gun (as your up-front interest) for opening up a Certificate of Deposit account. They promoted this in publications all over the country – “More Bang for Your Buck!”
There was news coverage of this bank giving away guns, long before I even shot the scene there. The Chicago Sun Times wrote about how the bank would “hand you a gun” with the purchase of a CD. Those are the precise words used by a bank employee in the film.
When you see me going in to the bank and walking out with my new gun in “Bowling for Columbine” – that is exactly as it happened. Nothing was done out of the ordinary other than to phone ahead and ask permission to let me bring a camera in to film me opening up my account. I walked into that bank in northern Michigan for the first time ever on that day in June 2001, and, with cameras rolling, gave the bank teller $1,000 – and opened up a 20-year CD account. After you see me filling out the required federal forms (“How do you spell Caucasian?”) – which I am filling out here for the first time – the bank manager faxed it to the bank’s main office for them to do the background check. The bank is a licensed federal arms dealer and thus can have guns on the premises and do the instant background checks (the ATF’s Federal Firearms database—which includes all federally approved gun dealers—lists North Country Bank with Federal Firearms License #4-38-153-01-5C-39922).
Within 10 minutes, the “OK” came through from the firearms background check agency and, 5 minutes later, just as you see it in the film, they handed me a Weatherby Mark V Magnum rifle
And it is that very gun that I still own to this day. I have decided the best thing to do with this gun is to melt it down into a bust of John Ashcroft and auction it off on E-Bay (more details on that later). All the proceeds will go to The Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence to fight all these lying gun nuts who have attacked my film and make it possible on a daily basis for America’s gun epidemic to rage on.
That’s right! That big honkin’ rocket sitting behind the Lockheed spokesman in “Bowling for Columbine”– the one with “US AIRFORCE” written on it in BIG ASS letters – well, I admit it, I snuck in and painted that on that Titan IV rocket when Lockheed wasn’t looking! After all, those rockets were only being used for the Weather Channel! Ha Ha Ha! I sure fooled everyone!!
The Truth: Lockheed Martin is the largest weapons-maker in the world. The Littleton facility has been manufacturing missiles, missile components, and other weapons systems for almost half a century. In the 50s, workers at the Littleton facility constructed the first Titan intercontinental ballistic missile, designed to unleash a nuclear warhead on the Soviet Union; in the mid-80s, they were partially assembling MX missiles, instruments for the minuteman ICBM, a space laser weapon called Zenith Star, and a Star Wars program known as Brilliant Pebbles.
In the full, unedited interview I did with the Lockheed spokesman, he told me that Lockheed started building nuclear missiles in Littleton and “played a role in the development of Peacekeeper MX Missiles.”
As for what’s currently manufactured in Littleton, McCollum told me, “They (the rockets sitting behind him) carry mainly very large national security satellites, some we can’t talk about.” (see him say it here)
Since that interview, the Titan IV rockets manufactured in Littleton have been critical to the war effort in both Afghanistan and Iraq. These rockets launched advanced satellites that were “instrumental in providing command-and-control operations over Iraq…for the rapid targeting of Navy Tomahawk cruise missiles involved in Iraqi strikes and clandestine communications with Special Operations Forces.” (view source here).
That Lockheed lets the occasional weather or TV satellite hitch a ride on one of its rockets should not distract anyone from Lockheed’s main mission and moneymaker in Littleton: to make instruments that help kill people. That two of Littleton’s children decided to engineer their own mass killing is what these guys and the Internet crazies don’t want to discuss.
Um, yeah, that’s right! I made it up! Heston never went there! He never said those things!
The Truth: Heston took his NRA show to Denver and did and said exactly what we recounted. From the end of my narration setting up Heston’s speech in Denver, with my words, “a big pro-gun rally,” every word out of Charlton Heston’s mouth was uttered right there in Denver, just 10 days after the Columbine tragedy. But don’t take my word – read the transcript of his whole speech. Heston devotes the entire speech to challenging the Denver mayor and mocking the mayor’s pleas that the NRA “don’t come here.” Far from deliberately editing the film to make Heston look worse, I chose to leave most of this out and not make Heston look as evil as he actually was.
Why are these gun nuts upset that their brave NRA leader’s words are in my film? You’d think they would be proud of the things he said. Except, when intercut with the words of a grieving father (whose son died at Columbine and happened to be speaking in a protest that same weekend Heston was at the convention center), suddenly Charlton Heston doesn’t look so good does he? Especially to the people of Denver (and, the following year, to the people of Flint) who were still in shock over the tragedies when Heston showed up.
As for the clip preceding the Denver speech, when Heston proclaims “from my cold dead hands,” this appears as Heston is being introduced in narration. It is Heston’s most well-recognized NRA image – hoisting the rifle overhead as he makes his proclamation, as he has done at virtually every political appearance on behalf of the NRA (before and since Columbine). I have merely re-broadcast an image supplied to us by a Denver TV station, an image which the NRA has itself crafted for the media, or, as one article put it, “the mantra of dedicated gun owners” which they “wear on T-shirts, stamp it on the outside of envelopes, e-mail it on the Internet and sometimes shout it over the phone.”. Are they now embarrassed by this sick, repulsive image and the words that accompany it?
I’ve also been accused of making up the gun homicide counts in the United States and various countries around the world. That is, like all the rest of this stuff, a bald-face lie. Every statistic in the film is true. They all come directly from the government. Here are the facts, right from the sources:
The U.S. figure of 11,127 gun deaths comes from a report from the Center for Disease Control. Japan’s gun deaths of 39 was provided by the National Police Agency of Japan; Germany: 381 gun deaths from Bundeskriminalamt (German FBI); Canada: 165 gun deaths from Statistics Canada, the governmental statistics agency; United Kingdom: 68 gun deaths, from the Centre for Crime and Justice studies in Britain; Australia: 65 gun deaths from the Australian Institute of Criminology; France: 255 gun deaths, from the International Journal of Epidemiology.
Of course, it’s a silly discussion, and it misses the whole, larger point: that blaming bowling for their killing spree would be as dumb as blaming Marilyn Manson.
But the gun nuts don’t want to discuss either specific points or larger issues because when that debate is held, they lose. Most Americans want stronger gun laws (among others, see the 2001 National Gun Policy Survey from the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center) – and the gun lobbies know it. That is why it’s critical to distract and alter the debate – and go after anyone who questions why we have so many gun deaths in America (especially if he does it in best selling books and popular films).
I can guarantee to you, without equivocation, that every fact in my movie is true. Three teams of fact-checkers and two groups of lawyers went through it with a fine tooth comb to make sure that every statement of fact is indeed an indisputable fact. Trust me, no film company would ever release a film like this without putting it through the most vigorous vetting process possible. The sheer power and threat of the NRA is reason enough to strike fear in any movie studio or theater chain. The NRA will go after you without mercy if they think there’s half a chance of destroying you. That’s why we don’t have better gun laws in this country – every member of Congress is scared to death of them.
Well, guess what. Total number of lawsuits to date against me or my film by the NRA? NONE. That’s right, zero. And don’t forget for a second that if they could have shut this film down on a technicality they would have. But they didn’t and they can’t – because the film is factually solid and above reproach. In fact, we have not been sued by any individual or group over the statements made in “Bowling for Columbine?” Why is that? Because everything we say is true – and the things that are our opinion, we say so and leave it up to the viewer to decide if our point of view is correct or not for each of them.