Seth Meyers and Hillary Clinton Have a Real Conversation About Gun Control

Seth Meyers
Seth Meyers discusses gun control with Hillary Clinton on "Late Night." YouTube

Extra-late-night television—the shows on at 12:30 Eastern time—has traditionally been a place for experimentation. The Tonight Show and The Late Show have to play it safe, but the guys on an hour later have always been given a little more leeway to do what they can to snag the attention of sleepy viewers.

David Letterman used the time slot to redefine the late-night talk-show form in the '80s, while Conan O'Brien expanded on Letterman's absurdism in the '90s and '00s. In 2015, though, the biggest risk a host can take is to put aside the wigs and props and have an actual conversation with a guest—with talking and eye contact and follow-up questions and stuff like that. Nonetheless, this has been the approach of Seth Meyers, especially with politicians.

On Thursday night, his guest was Hillary Clinton, and instead of subjecting her to tired gags, he engaged her in a no-frills conversation about gun control. First, though, came the requisite question about Donald Trump, and unlike most comedians, Clinton doesn't find his antics as funny now as she did five months ago.

"This latest demand that we not let Muslims into our country really plays right into the hands of the terrorists," Clinton said. "I don't say that lightly, but it does. He is giving them a great propaganda tool, a great way to recruit more folks from Europe and the United States. Because it's crossed that line, I think everybody, and especially the Republicans, needs to stand up and really say, 'Enough. You've gone too far. That's not who we are. That's not the kind of country that we believe we are, and we're just not going to tolerate it.'"

Things got more interesting when Meyers turned the conversation to gun control, asking Clinton if at this point real regulation is nothing but a fantasy. Clinton said she doesn't think so, noting that 92 percent of Americans and 85 percent of gun owners support "commonsense measures" like universal background checks and closing the gun-show loophole. Yes, the gun lobby is powerful, but that doesn't mean there aren't ways to enact change. "I know we can do this in a way that is consistent with the rights of those who, under our Constitution, can buy and own guns, without opening the door so wide that we have people who should never have a gun—people that are felons and fugitives and stalkers and people with serious mental illness and, now, potential terrorists—getting guns."

What has made Meyers so great at interviewing politicians is that he doesn't just mention gun control, say "Go," nod along for a few minutes and move on. He is always looking to work with his guest to unpack the issue as much as possible in the scant few minutes they have together. After Clinton noted that the majority of Americans do want some reform, Meyers wondered why it's then so hard for these responsible gun owners to connect to those in charge. Clinton didn't have a great answer for this, of course, because that's kind of the million-dollar question, but Meyers pushed her in the right direction by bringing up the irrational fear among gun owners that the government is coming to take their guns.

"If you are trying to keep people paying dues and supporting your organization, you want to keep them upset," Clinton said. "The NRA 30 to 40 years ago was not the NRA of today. There were people working together to try to figure out how we can have some commonsense gun-safety measures. Today, they want people to feel like the black helicopter is going to land in the backyard and your guns are going to be taken away. Totally, unbelievably untrue, but it does create doubt, and they just drive right through that. So we have to do a better job, and we have to do it from the bottom up, where more people in their communities and local gun owners stand up for it. And we have to try to do more from Washington."

Now is there any way we can get Meyers to moderate a few debates?