Michael Moore Unplugged

At the hometown premiere for Michael Moore's new movie, "Bowling for Columbine," Phil Donahue spoke to Michael in front of a live audience in Showcase Cinema West movie theater in Flint, Michigan. The film has already received an incredible response. It was the first documentary ever accepted at Cannes Film Festival in 46 years, it received a 13-minute standing ovation from the audience in Cannes, and was unanimously awarded the Cannes 55th anniversary Jury Prize award. Moore's past work, "Roger and Me," became the highest grossing documentary of all time. He is also the author of two "New York Times" bestselling books, "Downsize This" and "Stupid White Men." Below are some of Moore's thoughts on the gun culture in America.

On Columbine:

I think like most Americans, I was very affected by Columbine the day it happened. And in the weeks after it, I started thinking about how this issue has affected me all my life. It's the country I live in, the violence and everything. I thought, you know, we should really do something about this. So I just got my friends together and we were making our TV show. We approached this Canadian production company to see if they'd give us money. And they gave the money and we were off making the movie.

On American Gun Culture:

Ultimately, getting rid of the guns will be the answer. I think if we got rid of all our guns in the U.S., we would still have the psyche problem: the problem that says we have a right to resolve our disputes through violence. That's what separates us from these other countries.

All those countries [with low gun deaths in a year] have all banned the death penalty. They believe it's immoral to execute other human beings. There are so many other things you could go through and point out, about how they structure their societies.

I mean, think about Japan, first of all. One hundred and twenty million people, 39 gun murders a year. That's almost unfathomable to us. I mean, we can't even imagine; that would be like us having 89 gun murders a year in the entire country.

But they work it out differently. You know, the Canadians, they believe that if you get sick, you should have the right to a doctor. They believe if you lose your job, you have a right to get help.

If you were poor in Canada, or in these other countries, the majority of the country wants to embrace you. They want to help you. What we want to do is, we want to beat up on the poor.

We want to say, you're poor? We're going to make you suffer even more. And I think that that leads to a lot of violence, especially in our inner cities, because you've got these state acts of what I call state-sponsored terrorism and violence against our own people.

On Gun Law:

When I moved to New York City a decade ago, there were 2,100 murders that year. New York then enacted very strong gun laws. You cannot really buy a gun in New York City. Last year there were 600 and some murders, down from 2,100. This will reduce a lot of it. But it's not the full solution.

And that's why I agree with the NRA in part, when they say guns don't kill people, people kill people. Because it really is the people.

I'd like to say guns don't kill people, Americans kill people. Because I think that's what's really at the core of this.

And we need ask ourselves, why do we, as Americans, do this? And the French don't do it, the Germans don't do it, the Canadians don't do it. They're not any better than us. They're not any less violent as a people. They're humans, they have the same responses as we have. Why don't they go for the gun and kill at the rate that we do?

On His Documentary "Roger And Me":

Ten, 12 years ago when "Roger and Me" came out, at that time we had 50,000 General Motors jobs still. We had lost 30,000, but we still had 50,000. Today there's 12,000 GM jobs left here in Flint, just in the decade since "Roger and Me." And nothing has happened. It's only gotten worse. During a time of incredible wealth in this country, cities like Flint, Michigan, have just been on the ropes.

And you know, I got to say, if I were the mayor of this town, I would be down there to Ford Motor, and I'd say, "You want to make General Motors look bad? Put a factory here in Flint, Michigan. Put a factory here because people will line up around the block, and they'll work their butts off for you. Pay them a good wage, and that'll bring this town back." You know, but there's no thinking like that about how to bring other jobs here.

On Our Elected Leaders:

It's much easier to get elected, again, playing off people's fears. Run a law-and-order campaign. Promise you're going to lock everybody up. Play on the racism of the white voters, and let them know you're going to lock up the black community, or as many of them as you can. We've got two million people in prison now. You know, that's the easy way to go.

The hard way to go is to say, "You know what? If we work toward full employment and if we had a safety net to catch anybody who wasn't employed, where we made sure everybody had the means to get through day and the week and the month, we would have an enormous decrease in crime."

But that's hard work, isn't it? That would take smart politicians. That would take an effort amongst all of us, as the voters, to say, "We want to be like the Canadians."

On War With Iraq:

We're taught from an early age that it's okay to use violence to resolve our problems personally. I believe our mentality as Americans is to shoot first and ask questions later. We just, we go for the gun in a way that no other country does. We somehow believe we have some sense of entitlement or some manifest destiny.

Let's just go for that gun, and that's how we're going to resolve our disputes. And I don't mean that just on a personal level, which is where a lot of the homicides come from. I mean that on a political level and on a global level.

Because, just what we're dealing with right now with Iraq. The guy who's sitting in the Oval Office tonight. He wants to bomb. We don't need any more inspections, let's just bomb them and we'll find out later if they have the weapons. That's the American way. I don't like that.

I'm an American. I paid for those bombs. And I want it stopped. I want that stopped.

I mean, this isn't just starting with Bush. I mean, we have lived our lives, ever since I was born in the '50s, we've overthrown democratically elected governments. We've staged coups. We sent our boys to die in Vietnam for nothing and killed Vietnamese for nothing. We have this whole sad history of this kind of violence. And it is connected. It doesn't just happen in a vacuum.

And it's no surprise to me why people outside this country in other countries look at us and wonder "Why? Why do you do this? Why do you want to jump to war right now against Iraq?" Of course, we all know it's not about weapons of mass destruction, it's weapon of mass distraction, you know, so that Bush can get our minds off the economy and what's really going on because there's an election coming up.

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