Once, Jake Paul got a large machine gun tattooed down the front of his thigh. Nineteen million people watched the YouTube vlog where he got it. You do these crazy sorts of things when you are a Paul brother, when your YouTube fame is built on the promise of daily content, each day wilder than the last.
But two weeks ago, Paul told his 14 million YouTube subscribers that he planned on taking a break from that grind. “It’s Actually Not Everyday Bro..” his video title promised, referencing the catch phrase he uses to brag about his daily posting schedule. The vlogger returned to YouTube on Monday with the result of that break: a 21-minute documentary about the aftermath of the shooting in Parkland, Fla. The video is titled “It’s Time To End School Shootings.”
It was a somber, earnest video, particularly for Jake Paul. The gun tattoo is covered up by his jeans.
Paul sat by a pool in one scene, talking with Jonathan “JB” Blank, one of the Parkland students who survived the massacre. Blank watched his classmates die in a classroom that day as the gunman opened fire through the door. Then Paul interviewed Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
After days of interviews in Florida, Paul pledged to donate tens of thousands of dollars to the cause and presented a five-point plan in his documentary for ending school shootings that are based on what Parkland taught him. None of those points involved passing gun-control laws. Instead, the ideas are ones that Paul believes his audience can help to do themselves.
“We don’t want to wait for hundreds of people in Washington, D.C., to pass some laws; there’s so many disagreements,” Paul said into the camera, just after interviewing Rubio. “We’re at a point now where there’s people in legislation, people in power, people like me, people like you guys at home watching this … where we all want the same thing, and that’s to make schools safe. ”
Hours after his video posted, Paul tweeted that, despite its exclusion from his documentary, he did believe gun law reform was part of the solution.
Paul is known for being the younger of the ever-controversial Paul brothers. He’s not the one who vlogged a dead body in a Japanese forest — that’s his older brother, Logan. Jake is the one who used to be on a Disney show, until he parted ways with the company last summer after media reports revealed that he and his house of vlogging journeymen were the neighbors from hell in their residential Los Angeles neighborhood.
There’s something else you learn about Paul, watching his vlogs, and that is this: Paul seems to believe that his YouTube fame gives him a kind of superpower, one that can translate into solving complicated real-world problems. After Hurricane Harvey, for instance, Paul went to Texas to rescue Houston, a trip that was as much a charity mission as it was a documentation of the power of Paul’s fans to change the world. Paul calls his fans the “Jake Paulers.”
The same impulse drove Paul to Parkland, to make a documentary about school gun violence that was also about himself. And that makes sense, for Paul: When the Jake Paulers click on a Jake Paul video, they expect to enter a world where everything is mediated through the thoughts, emotions and experiences of Paul himself, as though he’s the only playable character in a video game.
“Why did you choose to feel comfortable opening up to me, specifically?” Paul asks Blank, at one point in their interview.
“It’s easier to talk about what’s going on to you than a doctor or someone. That’s their job. This isn’t your job. You’re just coming here to talk to me,” Blank replied.
In the next scene, Blank’s mother emotionally tells Paul that it was “the best therapy” to talk to the YouTube star. Paul seems moved, he lightly places a hand on her knee to comfort her.
Rubio and Paul spoke through Skype. Paul dressed up for it, in a black shirt and blazer.
“I think a lot of people think passing laws is super easy,” Paul asks Rubio. “Can you explain some of the struggles around passing laws?”
Rubio appears to answer a slightly different question.
“What are the things we agree on? Let’s do those things first,” Rubio urges. “We agree on these eight things; let’s do these eight things. And then there’s some things we may not agree on; phase two will be to go work on some of those things. But let’s get the things we agree on out of the way.”
The interview segment cut between Rubio and Paul talking, and footage from the CNN town hall where Rubio was confronted by students from Parkland. Whatever Paul’s intention in the juxtaposition, the contrast is jarring: On CNN, Rubio was jeered as he declined to pledge to never accept money from the National Rifle Association again. Speaking to Paul, it feels as though the two were often on the same page.
Paul asked Rubio whether there’s something he’s working on that Paul’s audience should know about. Rubio replied: “Most of these students, it isn’t like some guy wakes up in the morning in a bad mood, buys a gun, and goes and kills a bunch of people. It’s generally someone over a couple of years, has been getting worse and worse.”
“We gotta get better at identifying who these people are way ahead of time,” Rubio says.
Here is Paul’s five-point plan for ending school shootings:
- Install bulletproof windows in school interiors, particularly on the windows of doors
- Have more school resource officers
- Make social media companies do more. “These big social media companies should also have a moral responsibility,” Paul told his viewers. “Instagram, Facebook, Youtube. I know on Instagram, if a girl posts a picture with her nipples out, it automatically gets flagged and removed from Instagram and reported under a system. Why can’t we have that same technology with a kid posting a selfie with a handgun?”
- Give students defensive gear. “There are these bulletproof shields that can fit into laptop pouches of backpacks,” Paul said.
- Have checkpoints at school entries. If Parkland had one, Paul argued, “he would have had to have a reason to be there” to even get in the school.
In the days after Parkland, some of the Stoneman Douglas high school students began a campaign to change the gun laws in America. Their voices went viral.
Like the voices of the outspoken Parkland students, Paul’s message will be seen by a ton of people. His message, however, is quite different from the one that became a movement on its own. Gun laws are at the center of that student push. But for Paul, that process is too slow. His video emphasizes actions that Paul believes can happen quickly. In a tweet on Monday night, Paul outlined the gun reform changes he supports:
At the end of the video, Paul promises to spend $25,000 to help “be a part of this cause,” which includes sending money to transport two buses of people to the March for our Lives in Washington later this month.
Unlike many of Paul’s other videos, this one is not monetized with ads. “By you showing this video to one other person,” Paul tells his viewers, “if it saves one life, then we are successful.”
Note: This article has been updated to include an additional statement Paul made on Twitter about gun reform, after this article was initially filed. The headline has been changed to reflect that statement.