Dear Mr. Kimmel,
I don’t actually watch your show—the lost-sleep-to-comedy ratio isn’t in your favor, I’m afraid—but as a political opinion writer I am sometimes forced to follow your political ramblings, most of which are well-meaning but deeply misguided and ignorant.
Such is the case with your recent missive on gun control after the Las Vegas massacre, what the Washington Post called an “emotional, scathing monologue,” but might better be styled “a deeply misguided and ignorant rant about a topic which Jimmy Kimmel appears to know very little.” Mr. Kimmel, for the sake of our public discourse and the effect that discourse may have on our civil rights, please: stay out of the gun control debate. You are in over your head.
I know you think you’re not, because, as you put it, you’re “emotional” about the whole thing, and you presumably believe—consciously or otherwise—that raw emotion is an acceptable substitute for truth. It is not. There are plenty of useful and commendable things you can do with that emotion: you can give blood, memorialize the victims of this brutal tragedy on your popular television show, offer financial assistance to survivors in a variety of ways. But you cannot allow mere sentiment to stand in place of reasoned and well-informed political dialogue. That is reckless and irresponsible.
Behold The NRA’s Mighty Money Clip
Your monologue was rife with false and untruthful assertions, claims that grossly distorted this critical debate and lowered standards for public discourse in this country. You claim, for instance, that Republicans Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan “won’t do anything about” the United States’ gun violence problem because “the NRA has their balls in a money clip.” This is a staggering accusation—that high-ranking elected officials are ethically compromised and financially beholden to a private advocacy organization. Is this true? Do you have evidence to back it up?
As a matter of fact, you don’t (one assumes you would have provided it on-air if you did). So I did a little research for you. Do you know how much money the NRA gave Ryan in the last election cycle? $5,950. Do you know how much Ryan raised in the last election cycle? Just under $20,000,000. In other words, the NRA contributed about 0.03 percent of Ryan’s campaign funds in 2016.
The NRA gave McConnell a little more money in 2014, his last election cycle, a total of $9,900. Do you know how much money McConnell raised in 2014? Just under $31,000,000. Again, the NRA contributed about 0.03 percent of McConnell’s total funds raised.
Is it your opinion that an organization that contributes three one-hundredths of 1 percent of a candidate’s campaign funds actually “has [that candidate’s balls] in a money clip”? Do you believe, as you put it, that the “gun lobby” is “running the country” based on this evidence? Well, maybe you do believe these things—in which case nobody has to take you seriously about, well, anything, really.
You’re Really Okay with Random No-Rights Lists?
Mr. Kimmel, you clearly do not like the NRA, for whatever reason. You’re certainly entitled to your political opinion But that does not allow you to make things up to further your own political ends. For instance, you claim that “In June of last year, the NRA fought to make sure people on the no-fly list can buy guns.” This is a lie, plain and simple.
What the NRA was fighting against last summer was not a provision barring people on the no-fly list from buying guns; it was a provision barring innocent Americans who had been placed on the terror watch list from buying guns. And they were right to stand against such a measure! The terror watch list is an overly broad, slapdash document that has regularly encompassed innocent American men and women who are guilty of no terrorist activity whatsoever.
Maybe you’re okay with innocent Americans losing their constitutional rights because they’ve been placed on an unaccountable secret government list for no reason. Most people aren’t, however; even the American Civil Liberties Union agreed with the NRA on this. You owe it to your audience to tell the truth about the matter.
Mr. Kimmel, you also level an incredible charge at President Trump, claiming that “in February, he…signed a bill that made it easier for people with severe mental illness to buy guns legally.” This is a gross and intellectually shameless distortion of what that bill actually accomplished.
The rule change Trump authorized in February did not, as a policy, “make it easier for people with severe mental illness to buy guns legally.” Rather, it repealed a law that forbid “[Social Security] beneficiaries with mental impairments who also have a third party manage their benefits” from buying firearms.
So grossly unfair was this law that it was opposed not only by the NRA but by “the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, the Disability Law Center of Alaska, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors, the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy, the National Association for Rural Mental Health, the National Council on Disability, the National Council of Independent Living, the National Coalition of Mental Health Recovery, the National Disability Leadership Alliance, the National Disability Rights Network, the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, and Safari Club International,” as well as the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, and numerous other advocacy organizations.
Do you think that these organizations are in the NRA’s pocket? Does the NRA have the Disability Law Center of Alaska’s balls in a money clip? Shame on you, Mr. Kimmel, for exploiting vulnerable American citizens for your own shallow political goals.
What Other Facts Are You Getting Wrong?
Lastly, Mr. Kimmel, you claim that “the House of Representatives is voting on a piece of legislation this week…to legalize the sale of silencers for guns.” This is false. The proposed bill will not “legalize the sale of silencers.” Rather, it “streamlines outmoded processes for acquiring this equipment.” Silencers are already perfectly legal; they’re just very difficult to acquire. If you cannot get even the most basic, nuts-and-bolts, bare-bones facts right, Mr. Kimmel, why should anyone listen to you about the more substantive stuff?
The American gun debate is a very critical one, Mr. Kimmel. It involves issues as diverse as civil rights, civil society, self-defense, an independent citizenry, public safety, and political power. We should be able to count upon public figures to provide factual, well-reasoned arguments on one side or the other regarding this crucial topic. If you are not capable of doing so, then for goodness’s sake, please, keep your mouth shut and let the people who do understand these things discuss them.