Fact-Checking Vince Vaughn on Mass Shootings: Shockingly, Guns Won’t Make Schools Safer

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Is there no schlubby, dark-haired comedian known for playing man-children while plumbing the depths of box-office-friendly buffoonery left to whom we can look for moral leadership? First, Adam Sandler offends Native Americans on the set of The Ridiculous Six. And now, Vince Vaughn has made controversial comments about guns.

Vaughn’s comments arrived Monday, while the actor was prepping for a return to the spotlight in the forthcoming second season of True Detective. The actor shot his mouth off about gun ownership, insisting that school shootings happen because there are not enough guns on campus. “Take mass shootings,” he told GQ. “They’ve only happened in places that don’t allow guns. These people are sick in the head and are going to kill innocent people. They are looking to slaughter defenceless human beings… In all of our schools it is illegal to have guns on campus, so again and again these guys go and shoot up these… schools because they know there are no guns there. They are monsters killing six-year-olds.” He also thinks guns are important for protecting ourselves from the government and likens gun rights to free speech.

Well, OK, then. Vaughn is clearly entitled to his opinions, but are his assertions in any way borne out by the evidence? What does the data say? It didn’t take me too long to discover the most basic and comprehensive data about gun deaths by geography, compiled by Richard Florida in 2011. He ran down the lists of factors that do correlate with gun deaths, discovering that poverty, working-class jobs, and other factors play a part. One thing that also shows positive correlation with gun deaths? Guns on campuses:

And, not surprisingly, firearm-related deaths are positively correlated with the rates of high school students that carry weapons on school property (.54).

In this case, the numbers show the exact opposite of Vaughn’s claims. As for gun control laws and the effect they might have? Again, Vaughn is wrong:

The map overlays the map of firearm deaths above with gun control restrictions by state. It highlights states which have one of three gun control restrictions in place – assault weapons’ bans, trigger locks, or safe storage requirements. Firearm deaths are significantly lower in states with stricter gun control legislation. Though the sample sizes are small, we find substantial negative correlations between firearm deaths and states that ban assault weapons (-.45), require trigger locks (-.42), and mandate safe storage requirements for guns (-.48).

I’d argue, as many pundits have, that America’s culture of violence is an equal partner with our lax laws in the stunningly high rate of gun deaths we experience compared to other countries. It’s not just about restrictions, but also about attitudes.

Yet the reality is that laws do have some effect, as these numbers show, and that guns on campus are detrimental, not conducive, to safety. With that in mind, it’s pretty irresponsible to advocate for more guns on campuses — where, you know, children spend their time. So perhaps the last word on Vaughn’s interview is best left to an Internet commenter who responded to the news by addressing the actor directly, telling him, “your sexiness rating with me just plummeted.”