The brutal massacre of 49 LGBT civilians at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida, has left the nation reeling—and divided. While information is still being collected about the killer’s motive, with reports ranging from a 911 call pledging allegiance to ISIS to that he was a self-loathing homosexual who’d frequented the club (and used gay dating apps) in the past, the one thing we know for sure is how he killed these innocent souls: primarily with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle that he’d legally purchased days prior.
A military-grade assault weapon, the AR-15 provides users limited blowback and serious firepower, able to dispense 45 rounds a minute. It typically comes with a 20 to 30 round magazine, though drum magazines containing 90 to 100 rounds—like the one James Holmes used to kill 12 people in Aurora, Colorado, back in 2012—are also available.
Late-night TV hosts approached the horrific tragedy in different ways. On his program Last Week Tonight, John Oliver offered a solemn tribute to the victims while pointing to the hundreds of people lined up outside Orlando blood banks as a symbol of hope. Full Frontal’s Samantha Bee was furious, lambasting NRA-backed Republicans for their “don’t blame guns” response to the shooting.
Bee’s TBS colleague, Conan O’Brien, seemed to combine the two. In lieu of an opening monologue, he delivered a solemn speech about how lamenting these regular mass-shootings has become a “national ritual,” and questioned why there is any need for a civilian to be able to purchase or own a killing machine like the AR-15, branding semiautomatic assault weapons “weapons of war.”Here’s O’Brien’s full monologue:
“Our goal, obviously, night after night, is to be funny and silly if you’re in the mood for that late at night. However sometimes, events are so horrifying and bleak that to come out here and tell jokes, it’s just not really possible—and tonight is sadly one of those nights. At a time when we think we’ve heard the worst stories about senseless violence in our country that it couldn’t possibly get worse, the news out of Orlando yesterday is still impossible to fathom. That so many people can lose their lives so quickly because of one person’s demented rage will never make sense, and God help us if it ever does.”
“Now, I am not a pundit. I am not an expert, and I have always—always—made it a policy to stick to my job and keep my opinions to myself. I have really tried very hard over the years not to bore you with what I think. However, I am a father of two, I like to believe I have a shred of common sense, and I simply do not understand why anybody in this country is allowed to purchase and own a semiautomatic assault rifle. It makes no sense to me. These are weapons of war, and they have no place in civilian life.”“I have tried to understand this issue from every side, and it all comes down to this: nobody I know, or have ever met in my entire life, should have access to a weapon that can kill so many people so quickly. These mass shootings are happening so often now that lamenting them afterwards is becoming a national ritual. I do not know the answer. But I wanted to take just a moment here tonight to agree with the rapidly growing sentiment in America that it’s time to grow up and figure this out.”“In the meantime, there are a lot of people suffering in Orlando. If you’d like to help them, visit: GoFundMe.com/pulsevictimsfund. Now, here’s what we’re gonna do: we’re gonna take a break, and then go back to doing whatever it is we do here—I’ve never figured that out—but I thank you very much for listening, and we’ll be right back.”