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Posted: 11/18/2002 9:26:10 AM EDT
[url]http://www.jsonline.com/news/metro/nov02/96331.asp[/url] [url]mailto:ekane@journalsentinel.com[/url]
Moore film on guns gets split reviews: impressive, dishonest Last Updated: Nov. 16, 2002 Eugene Kane E-MAIL | ARCHIVE I wanted to see "Bowling for Columbine," the controversial documentary by maverick filmmaker Michael Moore about America's love affair with guns. So I asked my new friend Jim if he wanted to come along. That's Jim Fendry, director of the Wisconsin Pro-Gun Movement. Actually, I had never met Fendry before but figured he would be a good movie "date" for this film. If you haven't heard, "Bowling for Columbine" is a highly acclaimed, provocative film that takes shots at the National Rifle Association and our nation's culture of violence. Moore uses myriad visual images to make his case against guns and gun owners. Everything from disturbing footage of the Columbine High School massacre to interviews with Midwestern militiamen to graphic and sensational TV news reports are used to buttress the filmmaker's main point. We are a country in love with guns, despite the overwhelming amount of violence and death that comes from such an infatuation. Fendry and I met up inside the lobby of Milwaukee's Oriental Theatre last week. Contrary to what I expected, he was an exceedingly polite and low-key guy, a former police officer who is the single father of six grown children, including a daughter who works as a detective for the Milwaukee Police Department. As director of the Pro-Gun Movement, he acts as an advocate and educator for gun owners. Much of his day is spent giving advice or information on existing gun laws and safety programs. An avid gun-lover himself, Fendry also regularly participates in shooting contests. It was immediately comforting to note he wasn't "packing." We watched "Bowling" together, then retired to a restaurant to discuss our impressions. Me first. The movie is a wickedly funny but also sobering examination of some disturbing realities when it comes to guns and society. Much of the perspective is delivered like a sledgehammer; Moore can't ever be accused of subtlety when it comes to making his points. I particularly liked the way Moore addressed the role of the NRA in promoting guns in our society. Also, the rough treatment the rumpled Moore gave American corporations such as Kmart for selling the bullets used in the Columbine massacres. Another favorite spot was Moore's badgering of NRA head Charlton Heston for appearances at NRA rallies in two cities just days after horrific school killings. You could probably guess I was impressed by Moore's spin on how racial attitudes contribute to gun violence. "Bowling" makes the case that the media has criminalized black people in the minds of so many white Americans, they rush out to buy guns in record numbers to protect themselves from an ambiguous threat. As added subtext, Moore related one law official's statement that many guns in the suburbs were stolen by white teenagers, eventually turning up in the black community. "Bowling" isn't perfect; it's too long and frequently too heavy-handed without providing solutions. But it's an important film, nevertheless. I give it a rousing thumbs-up. Fendry didn't agree. "I think the film was intellectually dishonest," he told me. He said many of Moore's comments about guns and gun violence were only part of the story. Specifically, he didn't appreciate how Moore equated America's violent history as the possible source - even inspiration - for the home-grown violence on our shores. Fendry also didn't like the film's comparison of the U.S.'s extraordinarily high homicide rate by guns with countries such as Germany, Japan and Canada. These are modern countries that also have poverty and violence, yet none comes close to the U.S. in terms of the number of people killed each year by guns. "He didn't tell the whole story," Fendry said, frowning. "In those countries, the number of homicides due to other weapons, knives and bats, etc., they are just as high as ours. "So that shows guns aren't the problem." Fendry added, because of groups such as the NRA that protect individual American rights, the U.S. has looser laws on gun possession than many countries. "You can't even own a gun legally in many countries." Fendry particularly didn't like the way Moore took after Heston, a man Fendry admires and has met at previous NRA events. Heston recently announced he is suffering from Alzheimer's disease, although there's no evidence the actor was showing any ill effects in his scenes in "Bowling." In one scene in the movie, Moore criticized Heston for appearing at an NRA rally in Denver, Colo., just 11 days after the Columbine massacre. In another scene, Heston makes a similar rally appearance in Moore's hometown of Flint, Mich., after a school killing there. Fendry said he suspected Heston's scenes with Moore were edited to make the actor look bad. He defended Heston's appearance at the events, saying the conventions were planned well in advance of the shootings. Basically, Fendry saw the movie as just another boulder of guilt dropped on the shoulder of gun-lovers. He thought it was typical rhetoric from the anti-gun crowd, blaming the NRA for violence committed by criminals, not law-abiding NRA members. "We don't believe that because a gun was used in a crime, everybody who owns a gun should feel responsible," he said. "These people (gun-owners) aren't part of the problem; they're not the cause." Movies such as "Bowling" tend to demonize gun-owners, which just perpetuates the conflict, Fendry said. He suggested it would be better if both sides tried to reach a happy medium. "Nobody's able to come up with any solutions for the violence as long as they keep arguing." Despite evidence of rampant death and tragedy by handguns in cities such as Milwaukee, in Fendry's mind, most people buy guns for sport. They shoot targets, they shoot animals, they engage in competitions and share fellowship over their love of armed weapons. Obviously, Fendry takes no responsibility for events such as the D.C. sniper, or the recent gun violence in Milwaukee that has community leaders outraged. "We don't feel we should have to apologize for criminal behavior." Fendry struck me as a fair and reasonable man, intelligent and committed to his point of view. He's a gun-lover who takes pride in his knowledge about guns and the law, and his dedication to safety issues. My father owned guns, kept them in the house and even carried a pistol in his hand when answering the door after dark. Most times, the only person who had to worry about getting shot by my near-sighted father was me, trying to slip in the door after curfew. Maybe that explains my attitude toward guns. In my view, there are just too many guns out there causing too much harm. It doesn't do anybody much good. Fendry, on the other hand, thinks it's a matter of personal preference and a right. Choosing to own a legal gun is no different from some people choosing to drive a fancy car or own an expensive watch. We agreed to disagree. Next time, maybe we'll go see "Harry Potter."
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Link Posted: 11/18/2002 9:44:31 AM EDT
Here's what I sent to him:
Fendry and I met up inside the lobby of Milwaukee's Oriental Theatre last week. Contrary to what I expected, he was an exceedingly polite and low-key guy, a former police officer who is the single father of six grown children, including a daughter who works as a detective for the Milwaukee Police Department. As director of the Pro-Gun Movement, he acts as an advocate and educator for gun owners. Much of his day is spent giving advice or information on existing gun laws and safety programs. An avid gun-lover himself, Fendry also regularly participates in shooting contests. It was immediately comforting to note he wasn't "packing."
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Contrary to what you expected? What did you expect? A bearded, camouflage wearing, Charlie Manson look alike waving a loaded gun around? I guess that's understandable. In a similar manner, I expect every black man I meet to try to either mug me, sell me drugs, or rape the nearest woman.
Link Posted: 11/18/2002 12:13:43 PM EDT
WTF is an "armed weapon"? Look at the context....sheesh. I will be writing Kane again!
Link Posted: 11/18/2002 12:35:33 PM EDT
[/quote] Contrary to what you expected? What did you expect? A bearded, camouflage wearing, Charlie Manson look alike waving a loaded gun around? I guess that's understandable. In a similar manner, I expect every black man I meet to try to either mug me, sell me drugs, or rape the nearest woman. [/quote] LOL ...touche
Link Posted: 11/18/2002 1:12:58 PM EDT
In one scene in the movie, Moore criticized Heston for appearing at an NRA rally in Denver, Colo., just 11 days after the Columbine massacre.
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It was a bit more than an "NRA rally" here in Denver that year, as Fendry correctly pointed out to this nitwit. It was the national convention and it had been planned for quite some time. The convention itself was basically cancelled, except for a members' reception and the annual meeting (which I believe they have to hold every year, by law). Every other event at the convention was cancelled. And how strange for Heston (the NRA president) to attend the NRA national convention. [rolleyes] I'd email this "journalist", but I think it would be a big waste of time. Some people are too far gone to bother trying to reach.
Link Posted: 11/18/2002 1:20:16 PM EDT
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