One of the more interesting shows on television is Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown on CNN. Sunday was the season finale, where host Bourdain traveled to Detroit to explore the food and culture. After the episode — “The Last Bite” — Bourdain gathered with friends in a Las Vegas bar to discuss the season, which included a segment filmed in New Mexico that featured “gun culture.” CNN host Don Lemon joined Bourdain, along with Roy Choi (author of L.A. Son) and actor Wendell Pierce.
Bourdain, an avowed “New York lefty,” admitted that he likes guns and expressed his respect for American gun owners:
These people in the segment, as many people in red state America — in gun country America — these are nice people. They like guns. As a matter of fact, I’ve gotta admit, I like guns. I like holding guns. I like shooting guns.
He explained more in a blog post about the New Mexico episode:
In New York, where I live, the appearance of a gun—anywhere—is a cause for immediate and extreme alarm. Yet, in much of America, I have come to find, it’s perfectly normal. I’ve walked many times into bars in Missouri, Nevada, Texas, where absolutely everyone is packing. I’ve sat down many times to dinner in perfectly nice family homes where—at end of dinner—Mom swings open the gun locker and invites us all to step into the back yard and pot some beer cans. That may not be Piers Morgan’s idea of normal. It may not be yours. But that’s a facet of American life that’s unlikely to change.
Bourdain described author Roy Choi as a peace-loving leftist, recalling that his family had defended Koreatown during the ‘92 riots with semi-automatic guns and shotguns with no support from the city government or the police. He asked Choi if Americans should be able to get AR-15s easily.
Choi said, “I’m from Los Angeles, so the numbers and the semi-automatics are, for us, it’s more about protection, whether it’s the Korean community or down in the inner cities. It’s really about — the guns are a part of the culture in Los Angeles, whether or not we want to agree with it or not and they — in the Korean community a lot of times they existed in stores. They existed as protection.” Choi said we should be talking about jobs and human rights instead of guns.
Lemon admitted that he had once owned an AR-15. “Listen, similar to you, I did own an AR-15. After covering [the Aurora shooting] I bought an AR-15 in Colorado because I wanted to go through the process of seeing how quickly — took me 20-30 minutes to get an AR-15 and I wasn’t even a resident of Colorado.” Lemon has since sold the gun but said he has “evolved” on his gun stance over the last year. “I don’t want to be a sitting duck. If other people have guns and they’re not going away, I’m wondering, should I be armed myself if everyone on the block is armed and I’m not?”
Bourdain said we shouldn’t compare the United States to Europe or Great Britain and said doing so didn’t help the discourse. “It doesn’t help. We’re not them.”
Lemon agreed, adding that comparing all gun owners to those who shoot up shopping malls isn’t helpful, either. “Those people who you were out shooting with — those were law-abiding citizens who were trained for guns and respect them. They’re not the people going into malls and shooting people. So there are two different ways to look at this. Yes, it’s mental health. But for the most part the people who have guns and who carry AR-15s, most of them are not shooting up people.”