Brow Beat

Let John Oliver Guide You on a Journey Through the NRA’s Bizarre Television Network

The NRA boycott continues in the wake of the shooting in Parkland, Florida, but there’s one area of the NRA’s business that doesn’t seem to be suffering: NRA TV, which is still streaming on Apple TV, Amazon, and Roku. On Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver took the plunge into the ludicrous, scary world of the gun lobby’s network, which features a combination of low-budget Fox News imitators and firearm-themed ripoffs of Antiques Roadshow—all with a carefully calculated purpose.

As Oliver explains, there’s an entire channel within the network dedicated to women of the NRA, which includes Love at First Shot, a show that that teaches women how to accessorize their weapons and compares firing an AR-15 to a “puff of happiness.” That light-hearted content is punctuated by emotional, endorsements of those same AR-15s to defend against drug lords and sex traffickers, delivered infomercial-style, as though the speakers are selling Snuggies or Ped Eggs instead. “Do you have ISIS sympathizers in those hard-to-reach places?” asked Oliver, imitating one advertisement on NRA TV. “Are you tired of getting 9/11-ed? There’s got to be a better way!”

The reason NRA TV content sounds so much like an infomercial, says Oliver, is because the network essentially is one, with gun companies sponsoring various series and ad agency Ackerman McQueen working behind the scenes. But while it’s a pretty shameless way to sell guns (and beet juice), Oliver concluded that the network is hardly the most troubling thing about the NRA, especially when there are plenty of other problems to choose from. “Think about it this way: If the NRA is a ferocious bear charging at you, NRA TV is that bear’s ridiculous hat,” Oliver said. “Is it eye-catching? Sure it is. Is it perversely entertaining? Absolutely. Is it the main thing you should be worried about? Probably not.”

Marissa Martinelli is a Slate editorial assistant.