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Friday, December 1, 2023

December 1, 2023: Gun Control Histories: Jim Jefferies

[30 years ago this week, Congress passed the groundbreaking gun control legislation known as the Brady Bill. So this week I’ll AmericanStudy a handful of key moments and layers to the debate over gun control and guns in American society, past and present!]

On two of the many great arguments in a comic case for gun control.

To my mind, one of the most persuasive (and definitely the funniest) cases for gun control was made by Australian stand-up comedian Jim Jefferies in his 2014 Netflix special Bare (that’s Part 1; here’s Part 2). If you haven’t had a chance to watch that stellar extended bit, please check it out and then come on back if you would for a couple takeaways from among Jefferies’ excellent arguments.  

Welcome back! Perhaps the single most pointed (and likewise very funny, if in a particularly Black Comedy kind of way) commentary on America’s epidemic of gun violence is the headline shared by The Onion after every mass shooting since 2014: “‘No way to prevent this,’ says only nation where this regularly happens.” Jefferies’ starting point in his gun control bit is an extended and inarguable version of the same point: that after a horrific 1996 massacre in his native Australia, the country passed aggressive gun control legislation, and there have been no mass shootings there since. Of course (as he also notes) the U.S. is not Australia, but here as well in the decade after the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban there were immeasurably fewer mass shootings than there have been since that ban was allowed to expire in 2004. We know full well, both from our own experiences and from those of other nations, that there are aggressive steps which can limit mass shootings; we just, as Jefferies mockingly points out, aren’t taking them.

Jefferies isn’t ultimately as interested in questions of national laws and policies, however, as he is in the ways that individuals make the case for unfettered gun ownership. And to my mind, he uses his comedy to note one of the single clearest hypocrisies in that case: that the pro-gun crowd claims to want these weapons for protection, but that they likewise note that “responsible gun owners” keep their guns locked in a safe to prevent accidental shootings, especially by and toward children (a tragically common experience). “Then they’re not fucking protection!,” Jefferies exclaims after a pointed pause, in one of the single funniest and most accurate moments I’ve found in any stand-up special. Followed closely by his recognition of the only genuine argument that the pro-gun crowd can make in good faith: “Fuck off, I like guns.” I suppose it’s obvious enough from this week’s series that I do not like them; I know that’s partly a difference of preference, but I hope the series has also illustrated the long history of national debates over guns and the common welfare.

November Recap this weekend,


PS. What do you think? Histories or contexts you’d highlight?

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