In the wake of every horrific mass-shooting in this country, there is a predictable cycle of how Americans choose to respond. While we’re pretty united in mourning the loss of the victims, and offering our best thoughts (and prayers) to the families and the survivors who face a long battle to recovery, it doesn’t take long for the political war-drums to begin their steady beat.
Some of us ask why the violence happened. We eagerly await new details on the shooter so that we can best understand what can be done — if anything — to try and prevent such a travesty from happening again. Others don’t wait. They quickly fall back on their ideological instincts that tell them that the killer and the circumstances are far less important than the mechanism used to kill. And to them, that mechanism is known by a single encompassing word: guns.
Yes, guns are to blame, and those who support and promote gun-rights are unequivocal villains. They don’t care about victims of gun violence, and they are — for all intents and purposes — accomplices to murder.
Think I’m exaggerating that sentiment? Just listen to last night’s monologue from late-night talk show host, Jimmy Kimmel, who in the aftermath of the Vegas shooting has become perhaps the country’s most outspoken voice on gun control.
Responding to pundits and those on the Internet who have criticized him for (when few facts were known about the shooting) using his platform and the murder-victims to shame political opponents, demonize gun advocates, and push for new gun laws, Kimmel said the following:
“Well maybe it’s too soon for you because deep down inside you know in your heart, you know you bear some responsibility for the fact that almost anyone can get any weapon they want and now you want to cover yourself until the storm of outrage passes, and you can go and do your dirty business as usual.”
It was quite a statement. According to Kimmel, if you publicly disagree with his conduct or his stance on this issue, you’re partially to blame for mass-murder.
Kimmel added, “But it’s not too soon for us because we’re Americans and the last time I checked, the First Amendment is at least as important as the Second Amendment. So we will talk about it and shame on you for suggesting I we do otherwise.”
It seems pretty clear that Kimmel has no understanding of what the First Amendment actually is. It doesn’t protect him from criticism for what he says, no more than it protects those he’s lashing out at. And the people who have a problem with what Kimmel says aren’t any less of Americans — nor are they shameful — for speaking up about it. Kimmel’s remark was an example of Hollywood elitism at its worst.
But let’s get back to Kimmel’s earlier point — that those who oppose his vision (or at least his policy positions) on this issue bear some responsibility for mass-murder. That charge is both wrong and disgusting, and Kimmel has no moral high-ground from which to cast it.
You see, if Kimmel is going to evoke the names of murder victims to push for a public policy change, he has a moral responsibility to explain exactly how that change would have conceivably helped those victims. If he can’t do that (and he hasn’t done it), he should have the common decency not to use those victims as a crutch for his argument. Instead, he’s going as far as placing blame on people whose only sin is opposing legislation that wouldn’t have helped the victims in the first place.
“Do something about guns!” isn’t a solution — but that’s what we keep hearing from Kimmel and his ilk. Still, if these people want to parrot talking points (about background checks, machine guns, the gun-show loophole, suppressors, etc.) that are often at odds with the realities of existing laws, they should feel free to do it.
But none of these things are applicable to the terrible event that took place in Las Vegas. None of them. Thus, they shouldn’t be sold to the public as the answer, and they sure as hell shouldn’t be used as a benchmark for assigning blame for murder to people who don’t agree with a late-night comic’s prescription.
Now, I don’t doubt that Jimmy Kimmel — and many gun-control activists for that matter — think they’re doing the right thing. I don’t doubt that they are sincere in their desire to protect innocent people from gun violence. But guess what? So are those of us who don’t subscribe to false solutions, dishonest narratives, and hyperbolic nonsense.
My advice to Jimmy, who clearly has an earnest passion for this issue: grow up, talk to people on the other side of the argument instead of assuming they’re evil, do some research, and advance some productive solutions.
If we want to honor the victims of the Las Vegas shooting by making a change that could have possibly helped them, why don’t we look at a ban on bump stocks? These are the devices that the shooter used to essentially convert his legal weapons to illegal ones, by emulating the functionality of an automatic rifle. Sure, there would be no guarantees that people wouldn’t create their own bump stocks, but the move would at least target an area of proven concern. And I suspect the measure would receive widespread support from both sides of the aisle.