It’s become a depressing trope of shootings that “if Sandy Hook/Orlando/Vegas didn’t change things, nothing will.” But while the repeat combination of mass shootings and mass nothing has a tendency to wear down gun control advocates who tire of making the same reasonable arguments over and over and over again, Jimmy Kimmel seems willing to keep saying what needs to be said until something changes.
On Thursday’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, the most emotional man in late night took to the stage to address yet another senseless tragedy, the murder of 17 high school students in Parkland, Florida. It’s been only four short months since Kimmel delivered a powerful, tearful monologue following the Las Vegas shooting, and yet he found a way to repeat himself in a way that felt fresh and genuine and real.
In contrast with his wavering voice and watery eyes, Kimmel tried to appeal to common sense on an issue where any vestige of common sense seems long gone. The need for reform is so obvious that it transcends party allegiance. “Every reasonable American, Republican or Democrat, knows that something has to be done,” Kimmel said. He almost conceded to those saying this incident is about mental health rather than gun control: “This is a mental illness issue, because if you don’t think we need to do something about it, you are mentally ill.”
Kimmel even tried to, as Trump has requested, “reach across the aisle,” pointing out how much he found himself in agreement with the president’s post-shooting statements—that no, children shouldn’t be in danger when they go to school and no, parents shouldn’t have to worry about never seeing their kids again when they kiss them goodbye. Having established this point of agreement, Kimmel appealed directly to the man with more power than almost anyone to do something about their shared interest in parents and children: Pull your party into line. “This is the perfect example of the common sense you said you’d bring to the White House,” Kimmel said, desperately appealing to Trump’s image of himself as someone free of the swampiness of Washington.
But having appealed respectfully to the president, Kimmel made it clear that the majority he spoke for were not going to let the GOP get away with their usual schtick. “This time we’re not going to allow you to bow your head in prayer for two weeks,” he warned.
Kimmel said nothing new, nothing that hasn’t been said by thousands before him, nothing that hasn’t already been said by Kimmel himself in the wake of previous mass shootings. But his somber optimism, his unwillingness—or inability—to give up on America and its solvable, unsolvable problem was strangely heartening.
Maybe, just maybe, this time is it. If not, I’m sure we can count on Kimmel to speak his case for common sense—painfully and plainly—the next time the unthinkable occurs.