Matthew McConaughey, the actor and Uvalde native who has been one of the most outspoken and prominent voices since the mass shooting in his hometown last month, called for “reasonable, practical, tactical” gun regulations during an emotional speech at a White House press briefing Tuesday, June 7.
The speech was the most overt call for some kind of gun control that McConaughey has made so far. He did not mention guns or the second amendment at all in an initial statement on social media and spoke only of greater gun responsibility in an Austin American-Statesman op-ed. But the actor took the next step at the White House, calling for a host of common-sense reforms while also sharing stories from his time in Uvalde after the shooting.
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Along with investing in mental health care and safer schools, McConaughey said ensuring responsible gun ownership demanded things like background checks, red flag laws, and “consequences for those who abuse them.” While McConaughey pointedly noted the carnage and “exceptionally large exit wounds” caused by the AR-15 rifle the Uvalde gunman used — which forced authorities to use DNA testing to identify victims — he stopped short of calling for a ban on the deadly rifles. Instead, he said the minimum age to purchase an AR-15 should be raised to 21 and that a waiting period to purchase those rifles needed to be implemented.
During his speech, McConaughey said, “We heard from so many people — families of the deceased, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, Texas Rangers, hunters, Border Patrol, and responsible gun owners who won’t give up their second amendment right to bear arms, and you know what they all said? We want secure and safe schools, and we want gun laws that won’t make it so easy for the bad guys to get these damn guns.”
He added, “Responsible gun owners are fed up with the Second Amendment being abused and hijacked by some deranged individuals. These regulations are not a step back, they’re a step forward for a civil society and the second amendment.”
Prior to his appearance in the White House press room, McConaughey met with President Joe Biden and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. He insisted that gun control reform should not be a bipartisan issue, stating, “Can both sides see beyond the political problem at hand and admit that we have a life-preservation problem on our hands? We got a chance right now to reach for and to grasp a higher ground above our political affiliations. A chance to make a choice that does more than protect your party. A chance to make a choice that protects our country now and for the next generation.”
Elsewhere in his speech, McConaughey spoke about his own childhood in Uvalde, where his mom taught kindergarten less than a mile from Robb Elementary. He also noted his own history with guns, recalling how he first learned to shoot a BB gun before graduating to a 410 shotgun. But ultimately, he stressed, “Uvalde is where I was taught to revere the power and the capability of the tool that we call a gun. Uvalde is where I learned responsible gun ownership.”
The crux of his comments, though, was the notion of “mak[ing] the loss of these lives matter.” He shared stories about the conversations he and his wife, Camila Alves, had with the families of victims such as Alithia Ramirez, Eliahna Garcia, and one of the two teachers killed, Irma Garcia, and her husband, Joe, who died of a heart attack days after the shooting.
One of the most powerful moments came when McConaughey spoke about meeting the parents of Maite Rodriguez. He ruefully slammed the podium and held back tears as he noted how the green Converse sneakers Maite always wore were the only clear evidence available to identify her body because her gunshot wounds were so bad. He noted that Alvez, who was sitting in the briefing room, was holding Maite’s shoes.
“You know what every one of these parents wanted, what they asked us for? What every parent separately expressed in their own way to Camila and me?” McConaughey said. “That they want their children’s dreams to live on… to continue, to accomplish something after they are gone. They want to make their loss of life matter.”
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