Stephen Colbert just wanted another nightly opportunity to make people laugh. Jimmy Kimmel wanted not to have to deliver another monologue through tears. Conan O’Brien wanted to go back to a time when late-night hosts having to address a national tragedy wasn’t regularly scheduled programming. Seth Meyers wanted the truth. Trevor Noah and James Corden wanted to know why America can’t do better. Jimmy Fallon didn’t want to talk about it at all. Each late-night host processed the news of the Las Vegas shooting, which left 59 people dead and hundreds injured after a gunman opened fire on a country music festival in the worst mass shooting in modern American history, with sympathy, sorrow, anger, and numbness. Collectively, though, they agreed: There needs to be change, and it starts with gun control.
“Second Amendment, I guess: Our forefathers wanted us to have AK-47s is the argument, I assume. Orlando, Newtown, Aurora, San Bernardino — every one of these shootings, the murderer used either automatic or semi-automatic rifles, which are not weapons you use for self-defense. They’re weapons designed to kill large numbers of people in the shortest possible amount of time. This guy reportedly had ten of them in his room, apparently legally. Why is that allowed? I don’t know why our so-called leaders continue to allow this to happen,” he said, later IDing the congresspeople who voted against closing gun-law loopholes. “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and a number of other lawmakers who won’t do anything about this because the NRA has their balls in a money clip also sent their thoughts and their prayers today, which is good. They should be praying. They should be praying for God to forgive them for letting the gun lobby run this country.”
“When is the time [to talk about gun control]? If you say after a mass shooting is never the time, then you’ll never have the conversation in America because there’s a mass shooting almost every single day,” he said. “To the people of Las Vegas, I can’t give you thoughts and prayers. I can only say I’m sorry that we live in a world where there are people who would put a gun over your lives.”
“To Congress, I would just like to say: Are there no steps we can take as a nation to prevent gun violence, or is this just how it is and how it’s going to continue to be? Because when you say, which you always say, ‘now is not the time to talk about it,’ what you really mean is there is never a time to talk about it. And it would be so much more honest if you would just admit that your plan is to never talk about it and never take any action.”
“Now, President Trump, you’ve said you wanted to be a transformative president who doesn’t care about the way things have always been done in Washington, D.C. This is your chance to prove it. And I mean this sincerely: You do not owe the Republicans anything; you know the Republicans tried to stop you from being president. Well, screw ’em. You wanna make America great again? Do something the last two presidents haven’t been able to do: pass any kind of commonsense gun-control legislation that the vast majority of Americans want.”
“Gun violence should not be a staple of American life,” he said. “Forgive me, because I’m just a foreigner here, and some of you may feel I have no place to say this, but how does every other developed country do a better job at preventing these attacks?”
Prior to his show, O’Brien said he was asked by his head writer to refer back to previous remarks he’d made after the shootings in Orlando and Sandy Hook for how to approach Las Vegas. That he’s already had to do this so many times before struck a nerve with Conan: “How could there be a file of mass shooting remarks for a late-night host? When did that become normal? When did this become a ritual? And what does it say about us that it has? I am not the most political of our comics — I never have been — but I will repeat what I said not long ago after Orlando: I don’t think it should be so easy for one demented person to kill so many people so quickly. The sounds of those automatic weapons last night are grotesquely out of place in a civilized society.”
In lieu of a monologue, Fallon opened his show with an odd pairing of a performance from Miley Cyrus and Adam Sandler doing an acoustic cover of Dido’s powerful “No Freedom.” “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re here to entertain you tonight, and that’s what we’re gonna do,” Fallon explained of the choice.