On Monday evening, the day after the Las Vegas massacre, ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel took to the microphone to deliver a harangue about gun control. His monologue on the issue had been eagerly awaited by the media, who were still dripping with excitement from his emotional speeches about nationalized health care. And they weren’t disappointed. Kimmel left behind all semblance of comedy and launched directly into a sincere, passionate call for gun confiscation. “It’s too much to even process — all these devastated families who now have to live with this pain forever because one person with a violent and insane voice in his head managed to stockpile a collection of high-powered rifles and use them to shoot people,” Kimmel stated.
The media cheered wildly. Greg Sargent of the Washington Post praised Kimmel, who, he said, “bravely ventured into the violent, crumbling neighborhood otherwise known as the world of contemporary American politics on Monday night.” Giovanni Russonello of he New York Times raved that Kimmel “delivered one of the most emotionally searing monologues in his show’s 14-year history.”
The Left’s attempts to use their advantage on the cultural heights in order to promote their politics is nothing new — we all remember Bob Costas’s 2012 tirade regarding gun control during halftime of Sunday Night Football. But this is the big problem with the gun-control debate: It never gets to an honest debate. Instead, the debate becomes an exercise in overwrought virtue-signaling, in which emotional reaction to events is identified with commitment to leftist policies.
Here are the facts: Kimmel’s monologue was wrong in significant and important ways. He misled his audience. And his specific policy prescriptions weren’t just wrong, they were misinformed.
Kimmel began by mocking the notion that the Second Amendment protected AK-47s; of course, that’s like stating that the First Amendment doesn’t protect Kimmel’s television show, since televisions didn’t exist in 1789. The function of a rifle in today’s society is the same as the function of a musket in the founding era. But Kimmel obviously knows nothing about firearms: he stated that in “Orlando, Newtown, Aurora, San Bernardino, every one of these shootings the murderer used automatic or semi-automatic rifles, which are not weapons you use for self-defense. They’re weapons designed to kill large numbers of people in the shortest possible amount of time.”
Actually, three out of the four attacks were perpetrated with semi-automatic weapons: weapons that fire one bullet per trigger pull. And rifles are frequently used for self-defense, and are far less commonly used in homicides than handguns. Semi-automatic weapons are certainly not designed to kill large numbers of people in the shortest possible amount of time; since 1986, it has been illegal under federal law to purchase or own a machine gun manufactured after that date.
We all mourned over the evil attack in Las Vegas. Just because we demand that public policies be undergirded by evidence doesn’t mean that we are morally deficient.
Kimmel went on to blast the National Rifle Association, suggesting that the NRA’s political spending is basically bribery (he said that the NRA had Republicans’ “balls in a money clip”) — but the NRA is politically powerful not because of its giving but because a huge number of Americans agree with its agenda. He moved on to ripping President Trump for signing a bill that “made it easier for people with severe mental illness to buy guns legally.” Again, this is a fallacious talking point: The bill Trump signed prevented the violation of due-process rights for Social Security recipients who need help with their finances. Kimmel trotted out the hackneyed talking point about the non-existent “gun-show loophole.” He suggested that making purchase of suppressors easier somehow raised rates of gun violence.
The errors went on and on, but the message was clear: Republicans are sinners, and they must repent. “They should be praying,” Kimmel thundered. “They should be praying for God to forgive them for letting the gun lobby run this country, because it’s so crazy.”
This is the typical debate: not between people who marshal evidence to their positions to determine the most effective policies, but between those who demand such evidence and those who scream to “do something” and suggest that those who refuse their policy suggestions “don’t care,” as Kimmel put it.
This isn’t just nonsense, it’s nasty nonsense. We all mourned over the evil attack in Las Vegas. And just because we differ on our prescribed policies — or more important, just because we demand that all public policies affecting hundreds of millions of Americans be undergirded by evidence — doesn’t mean that we are morally deficient. In fact, leveling those sorts of charges is morally deficient. I believe Jimmy Kimmel cares about the victims in Las Vegas, just as I believe he cares about children who need health care. For him to assume anything different about people like me isn’t just small-minded, it’s repellent.