It’s not just Vince Vaughn: Here are 10 surprising pro-gun celebrities who are also packing heat
Vince Vaughn has a few thoughts on guns in America, the most baffling of which is that there aren’t nearly enough of them. In a recent interview with the British version of GQ magazine, Vaughn said he “support[s] people having a gun in public full stop, not just in [the] home,” that mass shootings have “only happened in places that don’t allow guns,” and suggested the problem with America’s schools is the woeful lack of weaponry on campuses, “so again and again these guys go and shoot up these fucking schools because they know there are no guns there.” According to Vaughn, the way to solve America’s gun violence epidemic isn’t by instituting gun control measures but by taking the problem and throwing (or possibly, firing) yet more guns at it. “Banning guns is like banning forks in an attempt to stop making people fat,” the actor said, in a soundbite that set gun nuts’ hearts aflutter.
Vaughn is a vocal libertarian who thinks a lot of things, most of which he seems willing to talk about on the record, regardless of how right or wrong he is. Would he change his thoughts on the matter if he were told that real researchers who have done bonafide peer-reviewed studies find that more guns have actually made the U.S. less, not more, safe than other countries? That American lifespans overall, compared to other rich countries, are shortened thanks to gun violence? That states which have passed greater numbers of gun control bills have fewer gun-related deaths? That by essentially every measure, having a gun in the home puts children at greater risk of death, and that gun violence has led the U.S. to be the site of “75 percent of all children murdered in the industrialized world”? Or that guns also greatly increase the chance of homicide in cases of domestic abuse? I doubt it. I think Vaughn would probably just keep talking.
But he isn’t the only one. The conservative paranoid fantasy of a monolithically liberal Hollywood isn’t completely true. Sure, there are an awful lot of celebrities who lean left on plenty of issues, but some of those same stars take surprising stances on guns. Forget known conservatives like Clint Eastwood and Chuck Norris, and even known crazies like Ted Nugent and Gary Busey. I’m talking about the kinds of stars you might never guess would be in favor of keeping a gun in their own homes, around their own children, despite likely employing a security team the size of a small nation. Here’s a list of 10 of them, a handful of which may surprise you.
1. Brad Pitt. Though Pitt is one half of a Hollywood couple that consistently raises conservative ire, pro-gun types would likely be pleasantly surprised by his attitude on guns. In a 2012 interview with the Daily Mail, the actor spoke about growing up with guns as a kid in Missouri, keeping a weapon around the house now, and the notion that guns are inextricable to American identity.
“America is a country founded on guns,” Pitt said. “It’s in our DNA. It’s very strange, but I feel better having a gun. I really do. I don’t feel safe, I don’t feel the house is completely safe, if I don’t have one hidden somewhere. That’s my thinking, right or wrong… I got my first BB gun when I was in nursery school. I got my first shotgun by first grade, I had shot a handgun by third grade and I grew up in a pretty sane environment.”
The actor then seemed to echo the old gun rights mantra (and NRA paraphrasing of Edward Abbey) about how if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. “It’s just something with us,” Pitt continued. “To turn around and ask us to give up our guns…I don’t know. We’re too afraid that we’re going to give up ours and the bad guys are still going to get theirs.”
The quote only helped buoy a rumor that Pitt had dropped $400,000 to buy his then fiancée, actress Angelina Jolie, her own personal shooting range. Though Pitt was quoted as saying that Jolie was “a really good shot,” he claimed the shooting range story was untrue, calling it “hilarious.”
2. Angelina Jolie. Like her husband, Jolie also has discussed keeping a gun around as a way to keep her family safe. In a 2008 Daily Mail interview, Jolie said, “If anybody comes into my home and tries to hurt my kids, I’ve no problem shooting them.”
She went on to double down on Pitt’s claim about her competency with a weapon. “I bought original, real guns of the type we used in Tomb Raider for security. Brad and I are not against having a gun in the house, and we do have one. And yes, I’d be able to use it if I had to. I could handle myself.”
3. Steven Spielberg. This one’s a bit of a doozy, since for many conservative types, Spielberg’s name is synonomous with “Hollywood liberal.” But a piece titled “Hollywood Liberal Gun Nuts” by Steve Sailer could have some ammosexuals reconsidering their dartboard choices. Sailer points out that Spielberg isn’t just a gun owner, he’s a man in possession of an arsenal that would make Ted Nugent proud. Quoting from Joseph McBride’s 1997 biography of Spielberg, Sailer discusses Spielberg’s love of skeet shooting. In the 1970s, Spielberg often took recreational shots with his buddy John Milius, screenwriter of Apocalypse Now and a man who in a 1975 interview with Daily Variety stated, “I just absolutely hate liberals and people who are civilized.”
“Milius…introduced Spielberg to the sport of skeet shooting, a male-bonding ritual for Milius and his fellow Hollywood gun enthusiasts…Spielberg, who had learned to shoot from his father while growing up in Arizona, still visits the Oak Tree Gun Club. ‘He’s a darn good shot,’ says club member [and late actor] Robert Stack, himself a world-class target shooter. ‘He has terrific reactions. Clay target shooting is a very subtle, highly sophisticated sport; it takes a lot of nerve. He shot some very good scores.’
Sailer also points to a 2008 interview with actor-cum-flesh-and-blood Internet-meme Shia LaBeouf, in which the actor spoke glowingly of Spielberg’s vast stockade of weaponry (observed when the director invited LaBeouf over for a skeet shooting session). “He has the most ridiculous collection,” LaBeouf told GQ Magazine. “He’s got a gun for every movie he’s made. He buys old Perazzi guns, Italian—beautiful, beautiful guns—and gets them engraved. It takes like a year. He’s got the Jaws gun; he’s got E.T. He let me shoot with the Jurassic Park gun. He just got his Saving Private Ryan back from the engraver’s.”
And if you’re having a hard time picturing Spielberg holding a rifle, the Internet can help you with that. Italian gun manufacturer Fabbri’s website includes a picture of the director, shotgun held high and smiling for the camera, on its page of satisfied customers.
4. Johnny Depp. The man underneath all those bandanas, scarves and bracelets isn’t a collector of guns or even much of a proponent of them. Still, if the number of times this quote appears on pro-gun sites is any measure, conservatives were all too happy to learn that the actor plans to teach his kids about the art of shooting. Per the Huffington Post via a 2009 interview:
“We would just go out and line up a bunch of cans and shoot with rifles, handguns and at times, submachine guns,” the actor said, speaking about his childhood. “When I was a kid it was a controlled atmosphere, we weren’t shooting at humans—we were shooting at cans and bottles mostly. I will most certainly take my kids out for target practice.”
5. Eric Clapton. If you know much of anything about Eric Clapton—and here, I’m talking less about the blues musician than the man behind the music (check #9 here if you don’t)—the idea that he would have guns coming out of his ears seems nothing short of fitting. A man who admittedly beat and raped his wife (he blamed years of alcohol and drug abuse for his behavior after getting clean), and who in 1976 delivered a speech so racist and xenophobic it spawned a countermovement called “Rock Against Racism” (which he has never recanted, while also continuing to voice support for one of the UK’s most notoriously racist politicians as recently as 2004 and 2007), Clapton has a long history of acting belligerently in both private and public life. In fact, if he lived in America, and we made even the tiniest effort toward gun control, a background check would likely rule Clapton out for gun ownership. (Though his millions and celebrity would probably rule him right back in.)
As it is, Clapton says he got into guns back in 2003, when he began taking shooting classes at a gun school in London. It was, apparently, love at first shot, and Clapton quickly began buying up guns. (Fitting for someone who has a history of declaring England for the English, he specifically bought guns from British manufacturers.) Said Clapton in a 2008 interview, “It’s following the same pattern as when I collected guitars, cars and watches. I start out with a fairly broad spectrum, get obsessed and engulfed, and finally narrow the collections down.” That same year, Clapton decided to auction off 13 shotguns. Not because he already had enough to fill a special room he had constructed (though that’s true), but because he wanted to make space for a bunch more new weapons. “I built a gunroom that can house a certain amount of guns, and now I have to clear the decks for the new guns I have on order.”
6. Sean Penn. Last year, Charlize Theron convinced her then-boyfriend Sean Penn (he’s now her fiancé) to get rid of his guns, which he apparently owned in multitudes. And so in an act of love, Penn consulted with artist Jeff Koons, giving him nearly 65 guns to use in a single sculpture. At a benefit for Haiti, Penn credited his change of heart on guns to “a strong woman who happens to be from South Africa.” The allusion was obviously to Theron, whose opposition to guns is the result of her mother fatally and intentionally shooting her abusive father when she was 17. According to E!, Penn said at the time:
“Being provoked by this aforementioned strong woman and considering how liberating of bullshit and ugliness it would be [to] not only get rid of the guns I have in the continental United States but also to destroy them, Jeff Koons and I had a chat the other day. The highest bidder gets every single one of my guns put in the hands of this iconic artist and sculptor…Koons will decommission [and] render inactive all of my cowardly killing machines.”
Is it interesting that Penn states he’s retiring “the guns [he has] in the continental United States,” which seems awfully specific, suggesting he has more guns out there, probably in Haiti and maybe even some parts of the non-continental U.S.? Definitely. In any case, the winner of the auction for the gun sculpture was Anderson Cooper, who bid $1.4 million.
7. Whoopi Goldberg. During a 2012 episode of “The View,” when well-known libertarian John Stossel was the guest, Goldberg mentioned that she is a card-carrying member of the NRA. There’s never much of a shock associated with hearing Goldberg’s political affiliations—though she’s not a right-winger, she’s astonishingly retrograde on some issues—so the NRA admission belongs atop a pile of other political quirks. During the segment, following Stossel’s argument against stricter gun control laws, Goldberg announced her membership. “You packing now?” Stossel asked. “You wouldn’t want to find out,” Goldberg stated, to audience applause, for some reason.
8. Robert DeNiro. Although DeNiro hasn’t made any pro-gun statements (in fact, in a 2012 interview, he said, “I think one thing that there should be is some regulation of guns. It’s crazy how almost anyone can get access to a gun. That itself is not so good.”), he does have a permit that allows him to carry a concealed weapon, according to the Daily News. Those licenses, according to multiple reports, are fairly difficult to obtain, and the NYPD requires that an applicant prove he or she “carries large amounts of cash, has been threatened, or needs the gun for security work.” Those who have failed to be approved accuse the NYPD of a lack of transparency around the selection process, and suggest that the rich and powerful are able to bypass the system. (Others in possession of the license include Howard Stern, Donald Trump and Harvey Keitel, making the Taxi Driver circle complete.) The result is a number of lawsuits by ordinary citizens against the New York City police department alleging bias in granting the permits.
9. Bruce Willis. Though he called Mitt Romney a “disappointment” back around the 2012 general election, Bruce Willis has pretty consistently supported Republican candidates for president over the past few decades. It’s a fact that makes his stance on guns only slightly less surprising than some of the more “liberal” celebs who appear on this list. In 2000, speaking to USA Weekend about his own gun ownership, Willis trotted out two of the most oft-repeated lines of gun enthusiasts: “Everyone has a right to bear arms. If you take guns away from legal gun owners, then the only people who have guns are the bad guys.”
Even right after the Sandy Hook school shooting, as the country overwhelmingly supported some form of gun control, Willis spoke against any change in gun laws, suggesting that something as mundane as background checks might turn the Constitution into so much dust in the wind. “I think that you can’t start to pick apart anything out of the Bill of Rights without thinking that it’s all going to become undone,” Willis said. “If you take one out or change one law, then why wouldn’t they take all your rights away from you?”
Riiiiight. Because everyone knows we have never made any amendments to the Constitution.
10. James Earl Jones. There’s a little confusion around what precisely James Earl Jones, iconic voice of both Darth Vader and CNN and one of the most accomplished and revered actors of stage and screen, has said pro-gun wise. Conservative sites often quote Jones as stating: “The world is filled with violence. Because criminals carry guns, we decent law-abiding citizens should also have guns. Otherwise, they will win, and the decent people will lose.” The only problem is, Snopes can’t find an original source for the quote, which means it could just as easily be misattributed or wholesale made up—this is the Internet, after all.
That said, Jones is on record as a member of the NRA, and included the fact in his 2004 autobiography, Voices and Silences. The actor wrote, “I am a member of the National Rifle Association, but not a political member. I just throw the political mail from the NRA into the trash. Charlton Heston campaigns on behalf of the NRA. He says, ‘Here I stand.’ When it comes to the right-wing politics of the NRA, I don’t get into that. I just believe in my right to have a gun in my house.”
Jones concludes by saying his wife is “a member of the anti-gun lobby, so we pretty much cancel each other out.” Though I’m not sure I believe that’s how gun math works, exactly.