People tune into the late-night talk shows for a laugh and a diversion from the hustle and bustle of their daily lives, but in their return after the President's Day holiday, the various comedians weren't feeling particularly light. The Parkland, Florida shooting weighed heavy on their hearts, as did the familiar hand-wringing and lackluster response of those in power.
But also, there came a glimmer of hope. Something was different this time, and it didn't come from the leadership in Washington or even locally in Florida. It came from those impacted directly by the latest shooting massacre.
Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah and James Corden couldn't help but be inspired by the survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as they stood up loudly and publicly and said enough was enough. Even as they watched, the state legislature rejected a motion on Tuesday to consider a bill that would ban assault rifles, the kids remained undeterred as they look forward to their "March for Our Lives" on Washington set for March 24th.
"The Late Late Show with James Corden"
"When I came to America three years ago to take this job, I could never have imagined that as a late-night host I'd be talking about mass shootings, and talking about so many of them," the CBS star said at the top of a nearly ten-minute segment in which he cracked almost no jokes. The issue was simply too serious.
Corden detailed the two different mass shootings of 1996 in the United Kingdom and Australia. Each of them resulted in stricter gun laws in those nations, and each of them are the last mass shootings in their respective nations. Meanwhile, after each successive shooting in America, Corden said, "I've felt angry and confused and frustrated that nothing would be done to try to avoid these massacres. It somehow always becomes political."
And yet, something is different this time. "This time the children seem to be using their voices louder than ever to demand that their elected officials address this issue." Will they make a difference?
Marco Rubio doesn't seem to think so, as Colbert pointed out when he played the clip of Rubio arguing that stricter gun laws won't stop someone who's determined to commit a mass shooting. They'll find a way. "As long as we're being clear and honest, Senator, as a lawmaker you're position is 'The laws are useless. Everyone into the Thunderdome!' Then why do we need you?" Colbert wondered. "It seems like a houseplant would do a better job."
Colbert, too, found inspiration in the most unexpected of sources. "There is one group that gives me hope that we can do something to protect the children, and sadly it's the children," he said. "These students saw their leaders doing nothing and said, 'Hold my root beer.'"
After playing a clip of a student saying that the adults aren't doing enough to protect children, Colbert couldn't help but agree. "He's right, the adults aren't cutting it anymore," he said. "I think we need to change the voting age. Until we do something about guns, you can't vote if you're over 18."
Later, Colbert welcomed the junior senator from New York, Kirstin Gillibrand, who wasn't shy at all about where to point the finger of blame for Congress' continuing inaction about mass shootings. "They don't get anything done because the NRA has a chokehold on Congress," she said.
For the NRA, according to Gillibrand, it's not about rights or freedom, either. "The NRA is concerned only with gun sales. It is literally all about money," she explained. "It is all about greed. It has nothing to do with the 2nd Amendment. And we've seen death after death after death and it has to stop."
She said that Congress needs to get corporate money out of politics and lawmakers need to start listening to their constituents again, starting with these kids. "The solution to this problem is listening to those kids and hearing their pain, their frustration, their anger and doing something about it."
But while the survivors of the latest school shooting are taking their talk about gun control to the streets and marching on Washington, there is on bastion of sanctity where gun control will not be uttered, and the Comedy Central star was quite impressed to the lengths they would go.
"If you told someone that they had to solve gun violence, but they couldn't talk about guns, most people would be like, 'Well then, there's nothing I can do.' But most people are not Fox News," he marveled. Fox news pundits, analysts and guests talked about everything from teaching students hand-to-hand combat to turning schools into fortresses to arming more teachers. "My teacher didn't even know who was talking in class. Now you want to trust them to shoot the right kid?" Noah asked.
"We can't blame Fox for coming up with ridiculous ideas," he noted. "It's not their job to be responsible or even solve problems at all, so they can just shut up and dribble."
But like those kids in Florida, Noah isn't ready to "thoughts and prayers" and move on. "Although these shootings are happening more and more frequently, I refuse to get used to it. I also refuse to accept the idea that nothing can be done."
Donald Trump has begun to consider various courses of action in relation to gun control, even as the March for Our Lives is looming. Maybe, this time, something can be done.