Sunday night, the American pro-gun lobby took to Twitter to express its distaste for the Kardashian family, after the latest episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians aired. To look at the tweets, it would be easy to assume that E!'s favorite family had taken part in some sort of overzealous, hour-long, anti-gun PSA.
In fact, this particular episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians was a solid example of how and why the show has managed to stay on the air for 14 seasons. Beside a whole other storyline involving literal Pomeranian puppies (because: Kardashians), Khloé, Kendall, and Kim managed to present both sides of the gun debate in a calm, succinct, and meaningful manner rarely managed on American television.
Remember in Season 8 when Bruce got a gun, so Kris and Kylie just went ahead and buried it in wet cement? This week's episode was basically the opposite of that. It was also far less one-sided than the Season 12 episode in which Kim introduced her family to members of Everytown -- an organization dedicated to fighting for tighter gun control laws.
Kendall and Khloé presented solid reasoning for wanting to arm themselves, including their very justifiable concerns around stalkers and burglary. “Kendall and I were talking earlier and she feels really unsafe," Khloé told Kim. "She said she literally has a different stalker outside her house every few days, and she’s a single girl who lives alone. Someone’s already broken into her home. What if she was there?”
Frankly, the most shocking thing about the Kardashians having this conversation on their show is the fact that it's taken them over a year since Kim was held at gunpoint in Paris to have it. After surviving such an ordeal, many other celebrities (or non-famous people for that matter) would have rushed out and armed themselves immediately.
In this episode, after making a very sensible argument for at least educating herself about gun safety, Khloé asks Kim what she would have done if she'd been able to get hold of a gun during her Paris ordeal ("Would you have even known what to do?"). Kim then makes a point that is just as valid as her sisters' urges to up their security measures: "It was three against one," Kim says. "Or six or seven. There was no way I was getting out of there. I'm not Lara Croft. I couldn't have gotten away to go get the gun."
Her words echo a post by musician Caleb Keeter that went viral the day after October's massacre in Las Vegas. Keeter's fervently pro-gun stance changed once he was put in the center of a real-life emergency. "I’ve been a proponent of the 2nd amendment my entire life," he wrote. "Until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was. We actually have members of our crew with CHL licenses and legal firearms on the bus. They were useless.”
One of the most valuable elements of the episode was footage of Kendall and Khloé going on a gun-safety course. As the sisters learned about guns, viewers who've never handled a firearm did too. It's difficult to see why either side of the gun debate would be mad about this footage, since it demonstrates points for both sides: being a gun owner is a risky business, but it's possible to be a cautious one who's dedicated to operating firearms as safely as possible.
In terms of the extraordinarily complex gun debate in this country, Sunday night's Kardashians offered up the most simplified versions of both sides -- but that doesn't mean the episode wasn't valuable. For younger viewers, who aren't tuning into CNN Town Halls on the subject any time soon, and for overseas viewers still struggling to understand America's infatuation with guns, there were some priceless lessons.
If the episode had ended on another note, and Khloé and Kendall had wound up arming themselves, the pro-gun folk on Twitter would have undoubtedly sung a very different tune over the weekend; the women would have been praised for learning how to handle weapons responsibly before taking them home. That, of course, didn't happen because guns aren't for everyone.
In the end, Khloé and Kendall concluded that their safety was best left in the hands of their professional security guards (not a bad thing, given that Kendall was clinging to a wall the entire time Khloé was shooting). Despite Twitter accusations of being un-American for reaching this conclusion, one could argue that it's far more un-American to dismiss an important conversation outright, just because it didn't end the way you wanted.
Keeping Up With the Kardashians (surely the most unlikely of forums) just managed to make an episode capable of giving American families a jumping off point to talk to each other about gun safety. And there can surely be no harm in that.