On Wednesday evening, a rifle-toting gunman murdered 18 people and wounded at least 13 more in Lewiston, Maine, when he opened fire at two separate locations—a bowling alley, followed by a bar. A manhunt is still underway for 40-year-old suspect Robert Card, a trained firearms instructor with the U.S. Army Reserve who, just this summer, spent two weeks in a mental hospital after reporting that he was hearing voices and threatening to shoot up a military base.
While the other late-night talk show hosts stuck to poking fun at new Speaker of the House Mike Johnson on Thursday night, Stephen Colbert took his rebuke of the Louisiana congressman to a whole other level.
“Now, we know the arguments,” Colbert said of the do-nothing response politicians generally have to tragedies such as this. “Some people are going to say this is a mental health issue. Others are going to say it’s a gun issue. But there’s no reason it can’t be both.”
Nor, according to Colbert, is there any reason for gun violence to be a partisan issue. “Humans are dying,” Colbert pleaded. “This is a human issue. And at times like this, you can feel powerless, but you’re not. Because you can make this the issue you vote on. And I promise you, no matter what side of the aisle you presently sit on, you will not be alone.”
“More than 80 percent of Americans want Congress to do something—anything—to prevent mass shootings,” Colbert continued. “So ask your representative: ‘What will you do?’ And if they don’t have an answer immediately at hand, if they say it’s too soon to talk about this, that means they’ve never really given it any serious thought.”
Case in point: the aforementioned, and newly elected, Speaker of the House. Who spent a very small portion of his first official day in office responding to the events in Lewiston—and poorly. Calling this “a very dark time in America,” Johnson skipped the “thoughts” but did say that he and his colleagues are very “hopeful and prayerful” and that “prayer is appropriate at a time like this, that the evil can end and this senseless violence can stop.” Then, speaking on behalf of the entire House of Representatives, Johnson assured those listening that “everyone wants this to end, and I’ll leave it there,” which further incensed Colbert.
“Why would you leave it there?,” The Late Show host wanted to know. “Is that what you think produces hope? Just leaving it there and walking away from the problem?” Based on years of experience, the answer seems obvious. But Colbert assured Johnson and his colleagues that the American people are fully capable of thinking and praying all on our own. “You’re capable of governing, theoretically. And I’m sorry if that sounds like too hard of a job for you.”
“If that seems like too hard of a job, you know who’s really got a hard job now? The people in Lewiston, Maine,” Colbert concluded.