In an emotional opening to his show Monday night, Jimmy Kimmel cried as he spoke about the shooting in Las Vegas. He pointed out that the shooter was a seemingly normal accountant with no arrest history or mental problems and because of this, the gunman was able to legally obtain weapons.
“Second Amendment, I guess,” Kimmel said.
Kimmel described semiautomatic weapons as “weapons designed to kill large numbers of people,” as if anyone who owns one is a potential mass murderer lying in wait, and then located his real targets, Republicans.
He brought up a bill President Trump signed in February ostensibly making it easier for people with mental illness to buy guns. The bill, which was supported by that little known conservative organization the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as a host of disability groups, corrected an Obama-era wrong that tied being able to handle Social Security finances to gun ownership.
But Kimmel wasn’t done. He then called out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan by name for daring to send prayers and adds, “They should be praying for God to forgive them for letting the gun lobby run this country.” From there he continued into gun show "loophole” and “silencers” talking points.
That he said all of this after first noting that none of it — not the bill regarding people with mental illness, not the gun show loophole — none of it would have stopped the slaughter in Las Vegas, is exhausting. It fills the space with negativity and finger-pointing while offering no workable solutions. It’s virtue-signaling, and it’s so much easier to blame Republican senators than it is to blame a mass murderer we can’t understand.
Kimmel doesn’t have a fix to our mass shooting problem, but he has the boogeyman down and, of course, those boogeymen are Republicans. Never mind that a Pew Research poll in June found that 42% of Americans either own a gun or live in a household with a gun. Are they all Republican?
Keeping with the theme over on the Comedy Channel, Trevor Noah on The Daily Showsaid he had “never been to a country where people are as afraid to speak about guns.”
He must have different Facebook friends than most of us, as the days following mass shootings we see our timelines filled with pontificating on guns. Plenty of people are talking about guns, and no one seems at all afraid. They might not be saying what Noah hopes they’d say, but fear is not the issue. He ended his segment talking about a gun bill Congress will vote on later this week and apologized to the people of Las Vegas that there are people who will put guns before their lives. Because if there isn’t a cheap shot at Republicans at the end of it, what’s all this comedy really about?
It’s hard to wrap our minds around random violence, especially well-thought out violence like this that left its victims completely defenseless. It’s so much easier to direct hatred and rage at the political party you oppose than to admit our ideas are limited. “Let’s do something,” goes the refrain and few people, gun owners and Republicans included, disagree. It’s the “what” we can do that causes division. And that's what Kimmel and Noah help sow.
Karol Markowicz is a columnist based in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter @karol.
© 2017 USATODAY.COM