Exactly 10 years after Bowling for Columbine won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, activist filmmaker Michael Moore teamed up with MoveOn.org and USAction to celebrate the achievement with a screening Saturday evening at New York City’s School of Visual Arts Theatre, followed by a town hall discussion on reducing gun violence that was live-streamed across the country.
The panel included Rob Wilcox, cousin of gun violence victim Laura Wilcox and lead organizer of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence; Jaime Pessin from Moms Demand Action; Lori Haas, mother of Virginia Tech shooting survivor Emily Haas and Virginia organizer of The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence; and Garlin Gilchrist II, national campaign director for MoveOn.org.
Moore said that 14 years after making Columbine, he is tired of talking about this issue and that now is the time for action.
He proposed specific actions to the audience and thousands watching online in order to “get our United States Congress off their butts and enacting laws now. Not next year. Not the year after that. Now.” Moore said. “Every single piece of proposed gun legislation has the majority support of the American people. There’s no excuse for Congress not to pass these laws.”
“There are almost one hundred million Americans who own guns, almost one hundred million Americans,” said Moore. “That means there are more than 200 million Americans who don’t own guns. The NRA has over four million members. That means there are 304 million Americans who are not members of the NRA.”
“We are the majority and we should start acting like it,” he insisted. “Most importantly, the politicians had better start treating us that way and immediately start responding to the will of the people.”
The actions Moore suggested included tweeting the six or more Democratic senators who plan on voting with Republicans against an assault weapons ban, singling out Montana’s Sen. Jon Tester for a mass messaging campaign to overload his Twitter inbox with calls that he support the ban. Moore said the Twitter effect has already worked, convincing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to reverse his decision on allowing a vote on the assault weapons ban after a Twitter bombardment.
Another idea proposed was visiting or calling the local district offices of lawmakers while they are home for the week.
“It is atrocious in this country that we live in a culture that allows children to murder children,” said The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence’s Haas. “We have got to do a better job. We have got to do more to care for our fellow man. We’ve got to care that we have allowed this culture to permeate.”
“I’d like to just say one more thing about the NRA and the myth of their influence,” she continued. “We can puncture that myth. Michael is correct, it’s four million [members] and frankly three out of four of those members want to have a background check on all buyers. They’re with us. Responsible gun owners understand the responsibility of having a lethal weapon in their hands and what it can do in the wrong hands.”
Haas pointed out that even in a “purple” state like Virginia, where the NRA headquarters are located, that a candidate can win without support from the gun lobby. She talked about how Tim Kaine, who has an F rating from the NRA, has won every election he has run for — mayor, lieutenant governor, governor, and senator.
The evening ended on an emotional note as one of the Newtown, CT residents in the audience spoke about her experience moving to Newtown from Australia, as her husband stood next to her to provide support. She talked about how in 1996 after a mass shooting, the conservative government in Australia took only eight weeks to make sweeping changes to the country’s gun laws. Since then, there has not been a single mass shooting and the gun death rate dropped by 50 percent.
She said watching Bowling for Columbine influenced her decision making in where she and her family wanted to live when they moved to America. After extensive research, she chose Newtown to raise her two children because it had the lowest crime rate, the best schools, and was a “wonderful community.”
After realizing that if it happened in a place like Newtown, it could happen anywhere in America, she became politically active for the first time. “There has to be a minimum of protection provided legislatively in every developed country in the world, including this one,” she said.
“We are in the majority and if we speak up, we will be heard. Midterms are coming and I’d like to warn America’s congressmen and senators that the majority… look at the polls, you’re in a bubble in Washington,” she continued. “We went to Washington, we personally went to speak to senators with another group from Newtown called Newtown Action Alliance that we’ve joined, and [politicians] are in a bubble and they don’t realize the tide has turned, and if they don’t do something now this year, they will not be there next year to do anything else.”