One week after a mass shooting at an Orlando, Florida gay nightclub left 49 people dead, John Oliver began his latest episode of Last Week Tonight with a segment about the National Rifle Association and its role in the nation’s gun control debate.
“Here we are again after another mass shooting with weak legislation doomed to failure,” Oliver said, after saying how despite pushes by Democratic representatives in the House and Senate, more gun safety measures were unlikely. “And there is clearly a disconnect between public opinion, which favors to varying degrees a number of different gun control measures, and any practical action in Washington. And it is pretty clear what is standing between those two things: and it’s the National Rifle Association. Like PETA, but for guns and effective.”
During the lengthy segment, Oliver also touched on the NRA message of no gun control, which has empowered and focused its members — and even found its way into Washington. The host discussed how the NRA supported the 1996 Dickey amendment, championed by former representative Jay Dickey (R-Ark.), which put a restriction in the CDC budget to prevent that organization from funding studies about gun violence. In the years since, CDC funding into gun-violence research has dropped 96 percent. (In a 2011 interview with the New York Times about the amendment, a chief lobbyist for the NRA said the group’s “concern is not with legitimate medical science. Our concern is they were promoting the idea that gun ownership was a disease that needed to be eradicated.”)
“It’s a lot easier to drum up support when you’re just flatly against something,” Oliver said. “There is a reason that TLC insisted on ‘No Scrubs,’ and not the implementation of a national registry of potential scrubs, a.k.a. ‘Bustas,’ that would screen for scrub-like tendencies, or affiliations with known scrubs. They knew ‘No Scrubs’ is a lot catchier.”
During the segment, Oliver joked how there are more members of Planet Fitness than the NRA, but NRA members “are highly motivated and can be mobilized quickly.”
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“The hard truth is, NRA members seem to care more consistently about preventing gun control than most of us do about passing it,” he said. “Because while you might be focused on gun control now, they were focused on it two weeks before Orlando, and they’ll still be focused on it two weeks from now.”
Pushing his audience to take action, Oliver said calling a local representative to push for a repeal of the Dickey amendment would be a good start — but calls needed to be made often and not just one time.
“Repealing it is not asking much. It’s not gun control. It’s enabling us to have an informed conversation about what that could look like,” he said. “And if or when a proposal you like is on the table, you’re going to have to make all those calls again, because remember: it doesn’t take much to outnumber the NRA. Planet Fitness members outnumber them. But it is time for us to learn what those members haven’t: if you’re going to see serious changes, you actually have to show up every f–ing day.”
The segment is not yet online via HBO, but watch a portion of it here.