His antagonists are the same ones being called out by the Stoneman Douglas students today: the NRA, complicit government officials, and our collective cultural tolerance for living in, and subjecting our children to, pervasive fear.
That a topical documentary film can remain relevant and instructive sixteen years after its release speaks to Moore’s prescience as well as to the depths of America’s moral decay.
They’re baldly calling for stricter gun regulations, and they’re specifically calling out the National Rifle Association (NRA), one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the country and a generous benefactor to legislators who’ve opposed strengthening regulation.
Made in the aftermath of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colorado, where twelve students and one teacher were killed by classmates Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the film takes an expansive look at America’s obsession with guns and its impotency when it comes to dealing with gun-related violence.
In Bowling for Columbine’s tonally assured, self-contained precredits sequence, he is given a rifle on camera simply for opening an account at Michigan’s North Country Bank and Trust.
“Well, here’s my first question,” he says to the employee, gun in hand.
As modeled from the outset of that first film, he wasn’t just a defender of the working stiff—he was the working stiff.
That wasn’t merely effective shtick, as Moore grew up working-class in Flint, Michigan, the son of a secretary and an autoworker.
(It is wretchedly likely that this number will have increased by the time this essay goes to press.) In the United States, guns are fired at or near children attending school nine times per year.
Revisiting Moore’s film in light of this appalling legacy, it’s remarkable how spot-on he was in his thesis.