Ranging wider, Moore discovers a startling statistic: more than 11,000 Americans are killed each year in gun murders, while the figure in Britain and most other countries is under 100. One might think gun control was the obvious solution, but Moore points out that guns are equally available in Canada, which has no such crisis on its hands.
"To look at just the guns lets us off the hook from looking at what I think the real problem is," he says. "After Columbine, I started thinking that this really isn't about guns - it's all about the American culture of fear and paranoia."
Fuelled by this idea, the film becomes an exploration of the American national psyche. Moore turns up some astonishing material, much of it at once horrifying and hilarious. He meets armed militia group members such as John Nichols, brother of one of the men convicted for the 1995 Oklahoma bombing. "The pen is mightier than the sword," Nichols tells Moore, "but I keep a sword handy for when the pen fails."
Examining media scares, Moore finds that race and violence are inseparable in the popular imagination - although prosecutors say their biggest gun problem is not with inner-city black gangs, but white adolescents in suburbia. The point is dramatically underlined in an interview with Charlton Heston, veteran actor and gun lobbyist, who appears to ascribe gun violence entirely to the presence of black people in America.
All this material, Moore argues, reflects the culture of fear that saturates America's social fabric - and is now spreading across the world.
"I think what's kept your country safe and somewhat sane," he tells me, "is that you have an ethic in your society that we don't have in America: an ethic that says, 'If one of us in Britain is hurting, we're all hurting.' Over the past 20 years, you've decided to alter that ethic and cut away your social safety net. I believe this is truly going to be your downfall. It's not going to be the McDonald's or the American movies that turn you into us. It's going to be because you've decided to beat up on the poor, the immigrants, the have-nots. Government-institutionalised violence towards them will ultimately create a violent society."
The film becomes really explosive when Moore extends his critique to American foreign policy, arguing that state violence sets a pattern for individuals to follow. He notes that the biggest employer in Littleton - site of the Columbine killings - is the arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin. In a montage, ironically set to Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World, he attacks the legacy of American foreign policy around the globe, culminating in the horrifyingly familiar footage of the World Trade Centre on September 11.
"That's going to be the hardest part of the film for Americans to deal with," he says. "But I put it there because, after September 11, my wife and I drove back across the country to New York, and the number one question we heard from ordinary people was, 'Why do they hate us?' I thought, 'That is a good question to ask, and I have got to show what we have done in the last 50 years.' We have slaughtered millions of people. There is blood on our hands, and we cannot turn our heads away from this."
In the current climate in the US, such strongly expressed opinions are political dynamite, and for all those who cherish Moore's work, there are those who cannot abide him. Even in Cannes, there was already a backlash, with some of his countrymen shaking their heads at him on the street, telling him he'd gone too far. He remains unrepentant. "I tell them, 'You want it to stop, don't you?' " he says.
Some may find Moore infuriating. Sometimes he bites off more than he chew. But, in Bowling for Columbine, he asks big, probing questions about the world's sole superpower, questions that are seldom raised on so public a stage. Whatever you think of his answers, this is not a film you can ignore.
- 'Bowling for Columbine' opens on Nov 15.
- 'Michael Moore: Live!' is at the Roundhouse, London NW1 (0870 890 0512), from Thursday until Dec 8.
- Gillian Reynolds is away
How does Michael Moore use the techniques of Satire in Bowling for Columbine to achieve his purpose?
By using film techniques such as irony, juxtaposition and sarcasm, in a remarkably powerful way, Moore leads the audience through a deeply emotional and informative journey in his film, bowling for Columbine. He clearly highlights the flaws in American society and the terrible fact, that American gun culture is based upon fear which is leading to the knocking down of much of their society. Through these techniques, Moore invites the viewer to reflect on the values and attitudes about human frailty and depravity and to question whether the gun laws in America need to be altered.
Moore outlines the flaws in American society simply by using juxtaposition as a technique of satire. Moore's effective juxtaposition conveys the problems with gun control in America. Juxtaposition between the "Wonderful world" music and the horrific scenes of all the death America has caused is extremely effective as it shows that America claims it is making the world a safe and "Wonderful World", whereas the truth is that this is the complete opposite. Another example is the fact that the town of Littleton, Colorado is seen as "a great place to live", yet there is a stark juxtaposition with the world's largest weapon’s factory situated right next door, and the town’s unpleasing history of burglary and rape. Michael Moore is extremely successful in communicating this technique, as he has achieved an excellent portrayal of the problems in American society, being an American citizen and himself growing up around guns. The gun problem is emphasised when Moore points out the shooting of a six year old shooting a six year old in the town of Flint Michigan and this is juxtaposed with the image of the NRA coming to the town to promote guns. The juxtaposition here is quite moving and conveys the severe flaws in American society. It portrays the NRA as a monster and makes them seem at fault...