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Physically shooting and killing another human being is a relatively easy act: simply go buy a gun, point the open end at the desired target, and pull back on a small piece of metal. In other words, shopping, aiming and squeezing are all that it takes to physically end someone’s life with a gun. However, for most people the mentality necessary to take a human life tends to be less pervasive than owning a gun itself. If in fact killing were so easy, the military would not be forced to spend millions of dollars teaching their soldiers how to mentally cope with taking a human life 
             In the movie, Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore attempts to find a reason why Americans are killing each other with guns more than any other nation in the world. Moore uses Canada along with other “First World” countries as a comparative backdrop to discredit various theories on gun violence in relation to the media, unemployment levels, gun ownership and governments’ historical trajectories. By the end of the documentary, Moore proclaims that, “Canada is a gun loving, gun toting, gun crazy country!” (BC Movie) He also asserts that Canadians enjoy the same action movies as US citizens, a popular love for hunting, and even experience a higher level of unemployment than the United States. While Moore utilizes this “gun crazy” image of Canada as a parallel to United States “gun fixation” in order to disprove social theories about high levels of gun violence in the US, he also falsely construes Canadian society. If Moore argues that Canadian are “gun loving,” but less violent, then perhaps the real question is: why aren’t Canadians killing each other with guns if they live in such a “gun crazy country”?
      In order to accurately analyze this question, Michael Moore’s proclamation about Canadian society must first be analyzed. Moore’s first assertion about Canada is that since it is a country with “ 7 million guns,” it must therefore be a “gun crazy country.” While Moore’s statistics are accurate, the actual ratio of people versus guns is quite distinct from the United States. If all 7 million guns were distributed to different individuals in Canada, only 25% of Canadian’s would have a gun in their hand. Whereas, if all the 222 million firearms in the United States were distributed to different individuals, 82% of American’s would have a gun. It seems a gross exaggeration to claim that Canada is the “gun crazy country”. Also, Moore has obviously overlooked the fact that in Canada, guns are concentrated in certain regions such as in the Yukon and Northwest Territories, and multiple guns can be owned by one person or one family. Hence, before making such generalized claims about Canada, Moore should have done more research and thought twice about his quantitative evidence. Therefore, could it not be assumed that fewer Canadians are being killed by guns because there are in fact fewer guns available in Canada?

     Moore also includes “gun toting” in his depiction of Canadian life despite the fact that carrying a gun in Canada is illegal unless one is equipped with a permit and license. Considering this law, it is arguable that Canada’s restrictions on gun carriers mirror that of the United States. However, if we examine the law more closely it becomes evident that actually acquiring a permit and license is a daunting task. In order to petition for a permit to carry a handgun, one must be either a police officer or prove the need for “self-protection” in which case “the applicant must prove that their life is in danger and the police cannot protect them.” (The Case for Gun Control 4) This is a difficult task and consequently only approximately 50 permits have been issued in the entire country.
As for hunting guns, restrictions are placed on locations and the annual dates in which these guns may be carried. Private property is the only exception where hunting guns are allowed year round. However, Canadian law restricts the ownership and purchasing of rifles to certified, licensed individuals. This entails the completion of a gun safety course with consists of an oral and written exam, a background check and a large fee. Hence, it is only a minority of Canadians that own firearms rather than the “gun toting” masses that Moore depicts.

Canada has always had stronger firearm regulations than the United States, particularly because gun ownership has never been seen as a guaranteed “right” of man. The US, in contrast, actually has this “right” in their Constitution. The difference between these two traditions is that one allows the government to protect its citizens from guns while the other does not because it prioritizes an individual’s right of gun ownership over the protection of life itself. With this firearm regulation, the Canadian government has created strict gun control laws or at least set a strong precedent.

Owning a handgun has been illegal in Canada since the 1930s; the only exceptions being the police and registered gun clubs or gun collectors. As a result, “Canada has roughly 1 million handguns while the United States has more than 76 million.” (The Case for Gun Control 4) Therefore, there are 63.3 times more handguns in the US. (The Case for Gun Control 5) Much research and statistical analysis by the COALITION for Gun Control has shown that crimes that involve firearms are predominantly executed with a handgun. Hence, low levels of handgun ownership indicate lower levels of gun homicides in Canada.

      In the documentary, Moore also attempts to discredit the theory that Americans are more violent because of the nature of the historical trajectory of their government. He draws viewers’ attention to the fact that Germany also has a violent history of warfare, foreign intervention, genocide etc, but does not boast as many people killed by guns as the United States. Therefore, he leads viewers to surmise that the US government’s tactics, foreign interventions, growing military and basic ideologies are not influencing the psychology and behavior of the American public. Being a Canadian who has lived in the U.S for the past three years, I must argue that I have witnessed the governments’ effect on its societies and more closely, on myself. I am in a constant battle to reject US war supporting ideologies and stay true to beliefs exemplified by Canada and its society as a whole.
     When pertaining to global issues, the Canadian government maintains a pacifistic role while the United States acts as a world regulator. Canada offers negotiation and aid while maintaining a non-violent neutral status on war and terrorism. The Canadian government sends Peace Keepers along with the supporting troops to war zones in an effort to facilitate negotiation processes, treaties, and no-fire-zones. While the US upholds its embargo on Cuba, Canada sends medical supplies to help the island’s population. On the one hand, the U.S plays perhaps a more active role in global politics, but this role is often characterized by aggression and violence in the name of American interests. When comparing the histories of conflict resolution between the two nations, it is apparent that Canada has a long tradition of dialogue and peacekeeping, while the U.S history is noted for coercion, warfare and interventionist tactics. While President Bush publicly rallies US support for the war on Iraq, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien regretted to inform the Canadian citizens that they would have to relinquish to having a limited involvement in the war effort based on Bush’s “you’re with us or against us” policy.
      Moore argues that many Americans believe that Canadians don’t shoot each other because they do not struggle with the same social issues that the US does. Moore strives to undermine this popular belief through a comparison with Canada’s unemployment rates. Moore proceeds to challenge the American publics’ claim by showing that Canada in fact has a higher unemployment rate than the US. However, Moore fails to recognize that Canada has better welfare aid programs that counterbalance the impact of unemployment. For example, “Canada currently spends 70% as much on unemployment income (U.I) as the United States, in spite of the fact that the total U.S. labor force is about 11 times the size of Canada's. Also, the likelihood of collecting U.I.is much lower in the U.S. than in Canada. Almost every person that becomes unemployed in Canada collects U.I., whereas the possibility is only about 30% that one can do so in the U.S.” (Unemployment Rate 3) While Canadians enjoy a “generous social safety net”, they also benefit from a welfare health care system that offers free health care. Furthermore, university education is much less expensive than in the US. Therefore, Moore’s theory that Canadians suffer from much higher levels of unemployment is correct, but he fails recognize that they simultaneously live in a more socially supportive government run system.

     In the end, it is apparent that Moore’s generalization of Canada is not a well-developed argument. Obviously, factors such as gun availability and control, government ideologies, and welfare state status are influential in deferring levels of gun violence in Canada. Therefore, Moore’s assertion that these factors in the United States do not play a role in levels of gun violence is incorrect. Perhaps if the US government altered their discourses and principles to parallel those of Canada, America’s gun homicide rate would begin to fall. Recent studies indicate that, “The rate of gun deaths in Canada fell to an all-time low last year, providing fresh ammunition for gun-control advocates and drawing envy from south of the border.” (Gun-death 1) While I am not suggesting that the United States should imitate all Canadian policies, I only propose that America look to its neighbors for aid in solving the US gun homicide crisis.


By: Amy Bujacz

Works Cited:
Moore, Michael. Bowling for Columbine. Documentary, 2002.
The Case for Gun Control. (Online). http://www.guncontrol.ca. 2001.
Gun-death rate drops to new low. (Online) http://209.157.64.200/focus/f news/ 994015/ post . October 1, 2003.              Hardy, David T. Documentary or Fiction. (Online) http://www.hardylaw.net/ Truth_About _Bowling.html Truth_About _Bowling.html. April 2003.      Bowling For Columbine. (Online) http://bowlingforcolumbine.com. 2002.
Canada vs. United States: Unemployment Rates. (Online) http://www.ez-essays.com/free/747.html. 2002


Published on: 2004-08-05 (13353 reads)

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