Someone I know was commenting on the movie recently and one of the pages that she mentioned pointed out that Bowling for Columbine manages to stumble across the line between fact and fiction. I was really surprised to read that dissection of the movie. Not because I was shocked that Moore would do that (I've always felt that his work has more spin than fact), but rather that he did it so blatantly and extensively. Looking back, I remember casually thinking that many of the things in the movie didn't quite make sense (e.g. the Heston/NRA speeches did not sound like the standard properly spun speeches that I've heard in the news).
Even so, I think Moore made an interesting point. Perhaps the problem with guns (or at least the American perception of them) is that the media has trained us to be afraid of the next horrible thing. Given the world that we see on the 6 o'clock news, is it surprising that so many people would want to have a means to protect themselves? Every night and every morning we get bombarded with news about how dangerous the world is (and yet crime rates in the U.S. are at a 30 year low). Combine this with our country's famous short attention span and cowboy mentality and you end up with a country full of people who want to have guns but who don't know how to properly deal with them. Not unlike our obsession with automobiles and the rise in road rage and accident rates. We constantly seem to forget the whole "it's a priveledge, not a right" concept with so much of what we do. Ok, so in theory owning guns/arms is a right, but perhaps it would do us good to remember that we need to be careful with dangerous objects.
The fact that so many groups are worried that movies like The Fast & The Furious will inspire kids to do illegal street racing doesn't indicate a problem with fast cars, or with Hollywood, but rather a problem with kids/people doing stupid things. There is nothing inherently wrong with driving fast if you are being careful and paying attention[**]. There is something infinitely wrong with driving at highway speeds while reading the liner notes to your CD (something I've seen first hand). Given the fact that a car is considered a lethal weapon and you can be prosecuted for using one as such, I think it's probably a good example of what's really wrong with how we approach many things in this country. Granted guns obviously have a greater potential for harm than your average car, but there are already many more rules regulating their use and ownership. The problem lies with people who think "my uncle pissed me off, I'm going to shoot him" and with people who think "my husband is cheating on me, I'm going to run him over with my car" (remember that case?). I won't go so far as to say that "guns don't kill people people kill people" but I have to say that I'm somewhat less concerned with the guns than I am with the people sharing this planet with me.
Mind you, some of this comes from living so close to Mexico (which has extremely tough gun laws) and seeing that they don't actually work. Mexico has some significant crime issues and many people are afraid for their safety. People want to protect themselves. Unfortunately, despite those very tough gun laws it also has very prosperous blackmarket which supplies that demand for weapons. If you make something illegal, and people want it you only serve to make the people criminals and to raise the price of the (now) illicit good. A good example of this is the our delightful war on drugs. Billions of dollars spent on a campaign to completely stop drug use in the U.S. and you can still find anything you want on a dozen of street corners in any major city in the U.S. Why? Because people want drugs, and they're willing to pay for them. It's simple economics. The only thing you accomplish by making anything that people want illegal is to increase it's scarcity which in turn only raises it's price.
Ultimately I thought that Moore seemed to wander away from the most interesting point. If a big part of our problem with guns is a result of frightened people having guns (and ammo ;), then why not try to do away with the fear? You can do away with the guns (or attempt to), but as long as the fear is still there, people will find different ways of dealing with it and I would think that many of those ways will still be dangerous and largely unneccesary. Maybe if people were less afraid of the monster's lurking under the bed and in their closets, they would be able to better deal with the real dangers in the world. That's not to say that all of the things we fear are made-up, but maybe we're making them out to be more likely than they really are. Maybe if average people felt less of a need to build arsenals and fortresses, they would be more inclined to solve or at least think about bigger problems (e.g. gas guzzling SUVs, erosion of privacy, etc...)
Anyways, those are just some thoughts.
[*] - My dad once chased a burglar out of his house with a loaded rifle for protection. He also made sure that all his kids knew what to do and what not to do around guns. I didn't grow up afraid of guns, but I did grow up with a very strong and healthy respect for how dangerous they could be. I was a really good marksman when I was younger and even then, regardless of how often I was around guns, I never lost that little twinge of "ok, this is serious, I can not goof around now" (which if you know my general nature and tendancy to always kid around is saying a lot)
[**] - Paying attention includes being aware of your surroundings and knowing that you need to adjust your speed to account for driving in a school zone, a 5 lane freeway, a residential neighborhood, and a highway in Montana.