After the Parkland shooting, the NRA is back in the headlines: Several major companies have cut ties with the pro-gun organization, and many Democrats have criticized the gun lobby for contributing to the mass shooting epidemic in the U.S. In the midst of this widespread debate, John Oliver highlighted one of the group's lesser-known off-shoots, NRATV, on Sunday's Last Week Tonight.
The digital TV channel produces a variety of pro-gun programming – from viral-targeted video clips that "[troll] for your attention" to multiple "Antique Roadshow knock-offs" to news programming that comes across like "Fox News on a much lower budget."
The network also airs an entire slate of content aimed at women, including a show called Love at First Shot. Last Week Tonight highlighted one disturbing episode where a gun expert holds target practice with an AR-15, the same weapon used in numerous mass shootings. After the segment, the instructor enthused of firing the gun, "It's just this nice, light 'poof' of happiness.'" A baffled Oliver fired back, "It's a little weird to describe a semiautomatic rifle the way Bob Ross describes a fucking cloud."
One hunting show includes nature scenes overlaid with brooding narration like "Somewhere over this horizon sit a million little dictators eager to purge humanity of its hunting instincts" and "Death is an undeniable fuel of life." Oliver summarized the programming as "less Planet Earth and more 'deranged letter from a serial killer.'"
Given that many NRATV shows are sponsored by gun brands, Oliver described the channel as one massive gun infomercial – and possibly the "dumbest, most transparent thing [the NRA] does."
"Think about it this way," he said. "If the NRA is a ferocious bear charging at you, NRATV is that bear's ridiculous hat. Is it eye-catching? Sure it is. Is it perversely entertaining? Absolutely. Is the main thing you should be worried about? Probably not. Because the real truth here is: Hat or no hat, it is imperative that everyone keep their eyes on that fucking bear."