Growing up, I was a huge Jim Carrey fan. To say he had a profound impact on my adolescent self might be an understatement (The “So, you’re telling me there’s a chance” line was invaluable as an icebreaker at school dances and house parties). And, to be honest, I still find the childish antics and slapstick humor of the Ontario-born movie star quite funny.
In fact, I must admit, I laughed when I watched his pro-gun control video, “Cold Dead Hand.” I couldn’t help myself.
Although I fundamentally disagreed with its content, the part where he imitates Sam Elliot — I’m paraphrasing, but something to the effect of, “I’m Clearly Sam Elliot… biting social satire goes down smooth,” — caused me to chuckle.
In any event, and more to the point, I get where Carrey is coming from.
Like so many celebrities, he favors gun control because he believes tougher gun laws have the capacity to save lives.
More specifically, he believes that banning certain modern sporting rifles (aka ‘assault’ weapons) or standard (‘high’) capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds will somehow reduce gun-related violence and possibly prevent another mass shooting like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Now, as he points out in a recent op-ed in Huffington Post “I Never Wanted to Take Your Guns,” as an American citizen, he has right to speak his mind. And I believe him when he said he cares about the well-being of this country.
“I am so proud of that country and everything it’s given to me, but I am also a naturalized American citizen and I have been bringing as much joy as I can to people in this country for 30 years,” wrote Carrey. “I care deeply about our future and I feel it’s my duty as a citizen to do everything in my power to make this a better place.”
So, what I’m not going to do is, I’m not going to tell Carrey to “Shut up” or “Go back to Canada” or to quit “Talking out his ass,” and I’m not going to call him “the most pathetic tool on the face of the Earth” nor wish that his career dies, and that “he ends up sleeping in a car the way his life began,” like others have.
Instead, I’m going to ask Carrey to examine the gun control debate from a different perspective, to shed his default-setting and prejudices about guns and gun owners (we’re ‘heartless motherfuckers unwilling to bend for the safety of our kids’) and look at the situation dispassionately.
To make things simple, I want Carrey to consider some facts and findings, listed below.
Concealed carry vs. crime statistics
Numerous studies have shown a negative correlation between concealed carry participation and crime statistics. That is to say, as more and more law-abiding citizens opt to carry concealed firearms for self-defense outside the home, crime rates actually decrease.
Take the ‘Gunshine’ State, for example. In January, Naples News reported Florida is in the midst of a “gun violence depression,” noting that “Firearm-involved violent crime rate dropped 33 percent between 2007 and 2011, while the number of issued concealed weapons permits rose nearly 90 percent during that time,” according to state records.
However, if that report is too localized, Carrey should examine this overall general trend in crime rates and concealed carry participation:
Defensive gun use vs. gun violence victims
Each year, around 100,000 people are shot. Of those, around 30,000 are killed. Two-thirds of those victims — or roughly 20,000 — are suicides. The remaining 10,000 are homicides.
We know these numbers. We also know that of those murdered by guns, less than 4 percent are killed with rifles of any make or model. That is to say, ‘assault’ weapons are rarely used to kill innocents. The vast majority of gun-related homicide victims are killed with handguns.
Unfortunately, what we don’t know is the number of individuals who use or brandish a firearm to protect themselves, their family or their property each year. This stat is known as ‘defensive gun use’ or DGU. Conservative estimates from the National Crime Victimization Survey put that number at about 100,000 DGUs per year.
However, some criminologists — like Gary Kleck at Florida State University — say that the number is as high as 2.5 million DGUs per year.
The short point to make about all of this, we know that guns are used to injure and kill people. But we also know that guns are used to save lives and protect personal property. Again, we don’t know how frequently this happens, but it does indeed happen.
Acknowledging this fact is key to understanding the resistance many gun owners have to gun control legislation, particularly bills that would mar one’s ability to protect oneself at home, i.e. bans on standard capacity magazines and modern sporting rifles.
Research on gun bans and thoughts on policy
Greg Ridgeway, the Deputy Director of the National Institute of Justice, wrote the following with respect to ‘assault’ weapons in his internal Department of Justice memo, “Summary of Select Firearm Violence Prevention Strategies” that was recently leaked to the public:
Assault weapons are not a major contributor to gun crime. The existing stock of assault weapons is large, undercutting the effectiveness of bans with exemptions … a complete elimination of assault weapons would not have a large impact on gun homicides … Since assault weapons are not a major contributor to U.S. gun homicide and the existing stock of guns is large, an assault weapon ban is unlikely to have an impact on gun violence. If coupled with a gun buyback and no exemptions then it could be effective.
Ridgeway’s argument, unless the government rounds up all the modern sporting rifles in circulation an ‘assault’ weapons ban is unlikely to have an impact on gun violence. Moreover, even if there was complete retroactive ban on modern sporting rifles, there is only a chance that it “could” be effective. That is, there are no guarantees.
But even if Carrey opts to ignore those facts and findings, there’re still several practical questions to consider about the limitations of public policy with respect to stopping school shooters, which is what really reignited this whole debate.
To explicate, is it reasonable to assume that any of the proposed gun control measures would have stopped Adam Lanza from murdering those children at Sandy Hook?
Looking at the broader picture, if someone is determined, resourceful and semi-lucid, and they want to kill a bunch of people in a crowded place, is there any law on the books or any law being considered in the halls of Congress that would prevent them from doing so?
Short of establishing an Orwellian society, I’m not sure that there is. (Also, keep in mind, that the deadliest school shooting in U.S. History, the shooting at Virginia Tech that left 33 people dead, was perpetrated by a gunman who had two commonly owned handguns).
So, what are the chances that Carrey reads this letter? Prolly zero. And on the off chance that he does, what are the odds he takes anything I’ve said seriously? One in a million?
Regardless, I’d bet that the reason Carrey supports gun control is twofold: (a) he is ill informed on the subject and knows very little about firearms and (b) he has no affinity for gun culture or gun owners.
Were he to spend some time hanging out with gun owners, learning about and shooting firearms, and really listening to the other side of the argument, he may have a change in heart — or at least he’d be less spiteful in his characterization of gun culture.
See, it’s easy for one to dismiss a right or a freedom that he/she sees no value in. What takes real strength and real awareness and real character is to see things from another’s perspective — to approach the debate with a little more empathy and a little less vitriol.
I’m not a “heartless motherfucker.” I’m just a gun owner. And, perhaps against my better judgment, a Jim Carrey fan.