Skip to main content

Jon Stewart's thoughtless quip on young people and guns--It's just not funny

"How about we ... make guns less sexy so they won't be considered so cool by young people?" declared Jon Stewart, whose "Daily Show" semi-satiric news commentaries typically bring accolades from progressives.

Those familiar with The Daily Show know Stewart often provides profound and original insights from which conventional commentators shrink. In a largely serious January 9 commentary, Stewart zeroed in on the extreme paranoia of a fraction of gun enthusiasts that some not-yet-extant Hitler or Stalin is plotting confiscate their firearms enroute to imposing murderous dictatorship, which actually imposes an extreme "gun rights" climate on all of Americans that sanctions mass-slaughter automatic and assault weapons without limit.

However, Stewart's ultra-puritanism toward young people (his show refuses to allow anyone under age 18 in its audience)--in stark contrast to colleague Stephen Colbert's wry skepticism toward youth-bashing in his Colbert Report--weakens Stewart's progressive message.

To challenge his latest idiocy, let me offer my own addendum <cue sarcastic voice>: YEAH, "sexy guns" in games and movies is THE BIG REASON Washington, DC's, gun murder toll among young people under age 18 over the last decade looks like this: African Americans 128, Whites, zero. Because black people think guns are, quote, 'SEXY'!"

In better moments, Stewart brings a unique perspective. Here's one from the Violence Policy Center and National Opinion Research Center's General Social Survey: gun ownership in households and by individuals has plunged over the past 20 years, from half or more prior to 1990 to just one-third today. A record-low one-fifth of Americans now own guns.

Why the big drop? Because "the aging of the current-gun owning population--primarily white males" is being supplanted by "the lack of interest in guns by youth."

The violence stats can't be repeated enough: From 1990 to 2011, California's rates of youth homicide arrests fell by 85%, including drops of 70% among white, 82% among Hispanic, and 88% among African American youth. From 1993 to 2010, firearms murder rates and overall gun death rates among youth both dropped by 52% nationally, the largest declines of any age group. Youth under age 18 now perpetrate just 4% of all homicides, the lowest proportion ever reliably recorded.

In short, more than any previous generation we can assess, today's young people do not see guns as "sexy." Thoughtless quips like Stewart's, like the NRA's video-game-blaming, contributing to the myth that kids today are just stupid and violent tell us much more about the brainlessness of the speaker than the subject.

Keywords: guns, Mike Males

Posted in Blog, Social Justice

Contribute to CJCJ

Make a difference to youth and adults trying to get their lives back on track.

California Stentencing Institute screenshot

California Sentencing
Institute (CASI)

Explore how California’s 58 counties send their residents to correctional institutions with interactive maps, charts, and downloadable data.

Connect with us


Contribute to CJCJ

Make a difference to youth and adults trying to get their lives back on track.

Join our mailing list

Get regular updates and news delivered to your inbox. We won’t share your information with anyone else.