While Stephen Colbert was one of the first late-night hosts to publicly address November’s terrorist attacks in Paris, his Late Show on CBS was on hiatus last week, which means Monday night was his first opportunity to comment on the San Bernardino shooting.
“I’m not exactly sure how to do this tonal shift right now,” Colbert said from his desk after delivering a joke-filled monologue about more frivolous news. The host said he just wanted to take a couple of minutes to talk about what happened last week in San Bernardino, and specifically the “thoughts and prayers” from politicians that were held up as evidence of hypocrisy by the New York Daily News.
“First, I’d just like to defend ‘thoughts and prayers’ as someone who occasionally thinks and prays,” Colbert said after holding up the newspaper’s controversial cover. “The reason you keep people in your thoughts and prayers is, admittedly, not to fix the problem, but to try to find some small way to share the burden of grief.”
But Colbert also agreed that “if we really want to fix” the problem of mass shootings, we “can’t just stop there.” And he pointed to President Barack Obama’s declaration that the San Bernardino incident was an “act of terrorism” to demonstrate how important those motives tend to be for the American people.
“When we decide it’s an act of terrorism, we do something about it,” Colbert said. “Sometimes too much about it,” he added, alluding to NSA surveillance. “But when it’s not a terrorist attack, we do nothing. Why can’t there be anything in between?” he asked.
“Why is it so easy to buy bullets when I have to show three forms of ID to buy Sudafed?” Colbert wondered aloud to huge cheers from his audience.
“Some people say if you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns,” Colbert noted in an attempt to represent the other side of the issue. “But then at least you’ll know who the outlaws are, they’re the ones with the guns, go get ’em.”
Before moving on, Colbert self-deprecatingly said he does not know what he’s talking about. But in this 2½-minute commentary, he summed up this country’s troubled response to mass gun violence and terrorism better than almost anyone else has managed to do over the past week.