Looking for Sanity in the Gun Debate? Listen to the Comedians

It is extremely hard to watch the nation convulse over gun control. Those of us concerned with the state of our democracy and with the increasing acceptance of violence as an everyday part of life cringe as we hear the pro-gun rhetoric. We hear that any effort to control guns is tantamount to waging war, to tyranny, and to destroying all of our national values.

But it’s much worse than that. This debate is not just about guns; it’s about the health of our democracy. It’s about the ways that violence, hysteria, and aggression have replaced community, civic engagement, and reasoned debate.

Beyond the real concerns any of us should have over the outcome of this conflict, our main worry should be the fact that the lack of dialogue, the absence of meaningful discussion of the issues, the political posturing, and the media coverage reveal a democracy in crisis.

We have shrill and outrageous statements made in public: Like that of James Yeager, CEO of Tactical Response, a Tennessee company that trains people in weapon and tactical skills, saying that he will be the first to shoot and set off a civil war if Obama takes measures to control guns. Yeager’s plan? If the majority wants to protect itself from guns, then he will have to shoot them.

We have elected state politicians, like Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands) of Texas suggesting that they will attempt to circumvent any federal measure to control guns. Rather than solve the problem democratically, he offers a solution that seems based in secession.

And we have mainstream media figures like Megyn Kelly of Fox News hosting panels on whether the children that appeared alongside President Obama when he announced his gun control initiatives were “props.” Rather then discuss the issues, Kelly chose to focus on the staging.

Then there are the pundits, like Rush Limbaugh, who bristle at the mere idea that the conservative media is hyping up the anxieties over gun legislation. He went after Carol Costello of CNN for reminding viewers that gun control was not equivalent to overturning the second amendment.

Each of these examples reveals the ways that democratic deliberation is suffering in our nation. But thankfully we have comedians in our midst who work hard night after night to bring reason and critical reflection to a nation steeped in hysteria and hyperbole. For years the satire of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert has served as a corrective to the media sensationalism that frames much of the way the nation thinks about key issues, but their comedic interventions on the gun debate have been both refreshing and insightful.

For example watch this Colbert clip:

So if you are looking for some sanity in the gun debate, turn to comedy. Satirists like Stewart, Colbert, and Maher entertain us while revealing the flawed thinking that is making a folly of our democracy. You may think comedy is just about laughs, but these days satirical comedy is shooting with both barrels.

Read the full blog here.