Jimmy Kimmel has always had an everyman appeal. Now, that manifests itself as an everyday guy who's trying to make sense of our politics—and is appalled at what he finds. There was healthcare, when he rallied a huge swathe of the country against the grotesque Republican "reform" bills. And now there is the horror in Las Vegas—Kimmel's hometown. "It feels like someone has opened a window into hell," he said last night, towards the end of a formidable monologue in which he marked the severity of the tragedy, then demanded action from both lawmakers and the public in a way it seems few others can.
There was something captivating about watching Kimmel—a self-professed newcomer to tackling political issues—attempt to tackle America's unhinged gun debate. He illustrated the absurdity of having something so obviously wrong, yet insisting there's nothing you could possibly do about it.
Second Amendment, I guess. Our forefathers wanted us to have AK-47s, is the argument, I assume. Orlando, Newtown, Aurora, San Bernardino—every one of these shootings, the murderer used automatic or semiautomatic 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. And this guy reportedly had 10 of them in his room, apparently legally. At least some of them were there legally. Why is that allowed? I don't know why our so-called leaders continue to allow this happen. Or maybe the better question—why do we continue to let them allow this to happen?
Later, Kimmel channeled the helplessness these moments can generate:
This is just a regular part of our lives now. You know what will happen: We'll pray for Las Vegas, some of us will get motivated. Some of us won't get motivated. The bills will be written, they'll be watered down, they'll fail. The NRA will smother it all with money. And over time we'll get distracted and move on to the next thing. And over time it will happen again and again.
But Kimmel wasn't helpless. He reminded the audience that there is a strong constituency for action on guns: 99 percent of Democrats and 77 percent of Republicans are in favor of universal background checks. 89 percent of everybody want to stop mentally ill people from obtaining guns.
Yet, as Kimmel sharply put it, President Trump signed an executive order in February reversing an Obama-era initiative that made it harder for some mentally ill people to obtain guns. Keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill seems like the most common sense measure possible, yet it is beyond a Republican Congress and White House afraid to ever strain against the NRA's tight leash. Kimmel drove that home by throwing up the photos of all the senators who voted against background checks after Orlando, the last most-deadly-mass-shooting-in-modern-American-history. That was last summer.
Maybe I'm nuts, but I think maybe we can put politics aside and agree: No American needs an M-16, or ten of them. And then maybe we don't do this again. I mean, that seems very reasonable to me.
But Kimmel has learned enough about the disease in our politics—the disease that has infected the Republican Party from top to bottom—to know how fierce the opposition will be to the idea civilians should not wield military-grade weapons on American streets. He had a line for the Republicans who will vote against any bill, ever, that would lead to even one fewer gun being sold in America, and are instead content to offer their thoughts and their prayers as this happens over and over again.
They should be praying for God to forgive them for letting the gun lobby run this country.
Yes, indeed they should. They don't reserve many spots in heaven for those who watch the mass slaughter of innocents with a shrug.