In the wake of the Dayton and El Paso mass shootings, John Oliver underscored the public’s demand for “meaningful gun control,” the currently “weakened” state of the NRA and President Donald Trump’s “pathological lack of empathy” on Last Week Tonight Sunday.
The comedian opened the episode by summarizing how Trump managed to brag about his rally crowd sizes and make fun of a political rival while visiting victims at an El Paso hospital. “I was here three months ago, we made a speech, and we had a stage — what was the name of the arena?” the president said in a phone-filmed clip. “That was some crowd, and we had twice the number outside. And then you had this crazy Beto [O’Rourke]. Beto had like 400 people in a parking lot.”
A dumbfounded Oliver responded, “We all know how much Trump struggles to do the bare minimum of being a president. But it’s still genuinely shocking how much he struggles to do the bare minimum of being a fucking person. Because just consider the thought process that happened there: He visited a hospital filled with victims of a mass shooting and thought, ‘Remember that other time I was the center of attention and it was better?’ And then he thought, ‘Do you think anyone else remembers that?’ Then he thought, ‘I should remind them, right?’ Then he thought, ‘Great idea!’ Then he thought, ‘Thank you!’ Then he thought, ‘Ivanka!’ Then he thought, ‘No time!’ And then he said it, and he was happy with how it sounded.”
But the most important question stemming from the latest round of mass shootings is, as always, “what action — if any — will be taken on guns.” Oliver noted that “pressure is building” for a legitimate response, and the timing would make sense as the National Rifle Association has suffered a series of blows over the last year. Or, as the host put it, the NRA is “currently in the midst of an eternal shit-show.”
Last year, federal investigators examined whether a Russian agent used the NRA to infiltrate Republican politics. Then the New York State Attorney General looked into their tax-exempt status because the NRA has racked up some suspicious expenditures, despite technically being a non-profit. For instance, chief executive Wayne LaPierre allegedly spent member dues on personal expenses like $300,000 on clothes, while he also reportedly thought the organization should purchase him a $6 million Texas mansion partly due to fears for his personal safety after the Parkland shooting.
In addition, the NRA recently cut ties with advertising firm Ackerman McQueen and nixed production on its online media channel, NRATV. Oliver, who devoted a whole segment to the “dumb” and “deranged” network last year, relished the opportunity to mention that fact.
“Obviously, the death of NRATV is a tragedy — thoughts and prayers to all those affected — but the bottom line is, for the first time in a while, things are not actually looking great for the NRA,” he said. “So does this mean that gun control could finally happen? Mitch McConnell has hinted at action on background checks, but he’s also refused to recall the Senate and might be hoping that by the time it’s back in session, the pressure will be off. Meanwhile, the president has said that he’s willing to stand up to the NRA, but he’s also 1) a liar and 2) likely to identify with an organization that has spent itself into colossal debt, has troubling ties to Russia and is associated with shitty TV programs and very bad taste.”
He continued: “I guess what I’m really saying here is: ‘A weakened NRA is nice, sure, but the only way that things are really going to change is if lawmakers continue to feel the pressure to… do something.”