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Film honors gun victim

Carol Feineman
John HartMichael Moore crosses Broad Street in Nevada City on his way to Nevada Theatre Saturday.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Saturday’s screening and question-and-answer period for Michael Moore’s “Bowling For Columbine” was a celebration of the late Laura Wilcox.

“Bowling For Columbine” is a just-released documentary about firearms abuse and America’s preoccupation with violence. The screening was a benefit for the Laura Wilcox Scholarship Fund and the Peace Center of Nevada County.

More than 300 tickets were sold, and organizers expect to net about $7,000 that will be split equally between the two groups.

Wilcox was killed during the Jan. 10, 2001, shooting spree at the Nevada County mental health clinic and Lyon’s Restaurant. A sophomore at Haverford College – a Quaker institution near Philadelphia – Wilcox was a temporary worker at the clinic during her holiday break.

As soon as Moore stepped onto the Nevada Theatre stage, he received a standing ovation. The second standing ovation was as soon as the closing credits appeared.

The film is dedicated to Wilcox, Herb Cleaves Jr. and John Alberts, who all died from gunshots wounds.

Before and after the screening, Moore praised Laura and her parents, Amanda and Nick Wilcox.

Moore challenged the audience to become active on gun control issues. The challenge included stopping future guns shows at the Grass Valley Veterans Memorial Building and Nevada County Fairgrounds, and holding the county Board of Supervisors accountable on gun control.

Moore said the supervisors and state are to blame for the deaths of the Jan. 10 victims. He believes the root of violence is unmet needs, and alleged gunman Scott Thorpe’s needs weren’t being met by the Nevada County Department of Behavioral Health Services.

“People are desperate, they’re hungry,” Moore said. “They want someone to organize for them. That can start at Nevada County by talking to the Wilcoxes. It starts with talking with a few people. You so have the power. Soon as everyone realizes that … there are five … supervisors and tens of thousands of you. You have to realize the power.”

“Bowling for Columbine” includes footage shot at a gun show June 17, 2001, in the Grass Valley Veterans Memorial Building, but Moore doesn’t identify the gun show as being here. (He didn’t want to give viewers a tainted image of this area, Moore said.)

A gun show customer interviewed wears a hat with an obscenity and says he needs guns because of everyone around him.

After the screening, Moore said he’d give the audience six months to make a difference or he’d identify Nevada County as the site of the gun show in the DVD version.

“So I want to feel my trip was worth it,” Moore teased the audience. “I need you to be active. Please participate.”

Parts of the “Bowling for Columbine” screening Saturday were hard for Amanda and Nick Wilcox to watch.

“We saw the premiere on Wednesday in L.A. Some scenes were difficult: the one when the (Columbine) mother calls 911 trying to find out how her daughter was; the face of the man whose son was killed in Columbine – that glazed look so soon after, it hurt us to look; the gun show here, which is a disturbing show,” Amanda Wilcox said Saturday night via cell phone as she and her husband drove to Sacramento for Moore’s next screening.

“The gun show (segment) was particularly disturbing because it’s in our community,” Nick Wilcox said, “puts it in context.”

Moore asked the Wilcoxes to attend the sold-out Sacramento screening. The couple works regularly on gun-control issues. In Los Angeles Thursday, they spoke at a Brady Act fund-raiser which recognized entertainment field members for highlighting gun issues.

No matter how painful “Bowling for Columbine” is to the Wilcoxes, they would not have missed the screenings.

“The film’s dedicated to Laura; it’s part of remembering her, helping others remember her,” Amanda Wilcox said.

“We felt like she was being honored Saturday. It’s wonderful. All my heart cries when there’s that support; we want it and it’s great,” she said. “We’d do anything to have her at college and e-mailing her, but that can’t be. It was nice to see people remembering and caring for her at Nevada Theatre.”

“Our activism is a way of coping, a way of expressing our grief and keeping Laura’s memory alive. Some days I don’t cope, I call those good grief days,” Amanda Wilcox said. “Laura’s helping, somehow, behind us, organizing us. This isn’t about us, this is about her.”

At the Nevada City screening, Amanda Wilcox encouraged the audience to contact the couple to help work on gun-control issues.

“I felt today I’d better speak out,” she said. “A lot of people care, but don’t know what they should do. Contact us. We feel our job is to educate people and get them involved.”

Ironically, Nick Wilcox said he and his wife first became involved in gun-control issues 25 years ago in order to promote safety for the general public “We were always involved. Never would we have imagined it would have touched us.”

Nick Wilcox wants “Bowling for Columbine” to receive widespread circulation and recognition.

“Hopefully, the film can be seen by a lot of people, which will make them think. Educate people and make them think twice about guns in our culture,” he said.

To donate to the Laura Wilcox Scholarship Fund, call South Yuba River Citizens League at 265-5961. To donate to the Peace Center of Nevada County, call 470-9797.

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