Before jumping into inevitable debate over gun control following this week’s violence at Virginia Tech, one pundit offered a modest proposal: rent Michael Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine.”

Presidential candidates have already begun staking ground between the anti-gun lobby’s stance of banning weapons and the NRA position of making America safer by arming everyone.

Sen. John McCain said Wednesday he supports “no gun control.”

“I do not believe we should tamper with the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States,” McCain said in a speech. “I hope that we can find better ways of identifying people such as this sick young man so that we can prevent them from not only taking action with guns but with knives or with anything else that will harm their fellow citizens.”

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s campaign issued a statement stating the tragedy “does not alter the Second Amendment.”

“People have the right to keep and bear arms and the Constitution says this right will not be infringed,” Giuliani said.

Most of the other candidates have steered clear of the issue, but former Sen. John Edwards said he supports some gun control, while respecting the Second Amendment.

Edwards told the Associated Press on Monday he grew up hunting deer, rabbits and birds but no longer hunts. “I think it’s important for us to respect the right to own firearms and to use them for protection,” he said. “I don’t think, though, that it means anybody needs an AK-47 to hunt.”

“In much of America, gun ownership is part of a way of life,” an Edwards spokesman said in a statement. “John Edwards believes that the Second Amendment protects gun ownership and that we must keep guns out of criminals’ hands.”

Moore, a controversial author and filmmaker whose documentaries include “Fahrenheit 9/11” and the upcoming “Sicko,” due for release this summer, posted a brief statement on his Web site about Monday’s shootings.

“The events of yesterday at Virginia Tech represent a terrible national tragedy,” Moore said Tuesday. “My thoughts and prayers are with the family members, survivors and the entire Virginia Tech community.”

Author John Nichols, meanwhile, Washington correspondent for The Nation, recommended  Moore’s Oscar-winning “Bowling for Columbine” as a good reference point for making sense of the contradictions and complexities about violence in America.

“Moore’s 2002 film remains the best popular exploration of violence and the gun culture in America,” Nichols wrote. “And, despite what the film maker’s critics would have you believe, it is a remarkably nuanced assessment of the zeitgeist.”

The film explores questions of why the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., took place, along with larger questions of how America’s foreign policies and media might contribute to a culture of violence and fear.

“Moore makes the mind swim with the atrocities and poignancies on display,” Mary Corliss wrote about the documentary in Film Comment. “‘Bowling for Columbine’ should be mandatory viewing.”

“That was true in 2002,” Nichols commented. “It is ever-more true today.” offers a 59-page PDF guide for teachers to use with “Bowling for Columbine.”

One recommended question for discussion and essays reads, “Is it your responsibility as an American to support gun rights, or have modern weaponry and living conditions made the Second Amendment obsolete?”

Things to consider, the guide says, include:

–What was the population of the United States when the Second Amendment was drafted and how did most Americans live?

–Compare this life to the current living conditions (both urban and rural) of the United States.

–What dangers (personal and social) did people face then compared to now?

–Consider the language of the Second Amendment. Do you think it refers to the individual right to possess guns or to the collective right of the people?

Bob Allen is managing editor of

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