A visibly shaken Matthew McConaughey addressed the American people from the White House podium Tuesday, pleading for the passage of commonsense gun laws in the wake of a shooter slaughtering 19 children and two teachers in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas.
The actor spoke for more than 20 minutes straight, sharing the heart-wrenching conversations he’s had with the victims’ families, whom he and his wife went to meet as soon as they learned of the May 24 massacre.
The budding conservationist Maite Yuleana Rodriguez, a 10-year-old killed in the shooting, will never get to work toward her dream of becoming a marine biologist, McConaughey lamented. She liked to wear a pair of green Converse shoes with a heart on the toe ― an emblem she drew to symbolize her love of nature. His wife, Camila Alves McConaughey, held the shoes in her lap nearby as he spoke.
“That turned out to be the only clear evidence that could identify her after the shooting,” McConaughey said, slamming his fist on the podium so hard that White House employees later checked to see if he’d left a dent. The large wounds left by AR-15-style rifles, which the shooter used, mutilate bodies so badly that “only DNA tests or green Converse” could be used to identify the deceased, McConaughey said.
The one message he heard repeatedly from the victims’ families, he said, was that they wanted their loved ones’ lives to matter. Doing that, McConaughey argued, requires passing “reasonable, practical, tactical regulations” around firearms.
“We need responsible gun ownership. We need background checks. We need to raise the minimum age to purchase an AR-15 rifle to 21. We need a waiting period for those rifles. We need red flag laws and consequences for those who abuse them,” said McConaughey, who’s considered a run for Texas governor in the past.
Though the vast majority of Americans support a universal background check law for all firearm transactions, no Republicans in Congress are willing to vote on the legislation currently before them. The bill, H.R. 8, would close a loophole that lets unlicensed and private firearm sellers, such as those making transactions online or at gun shows, skip background checks.
“As divided as our country is, this gun responsibility issue is one that we agree on more than we don’t. It really is. ... This should not be a partisan issue. There is not a Democratic or Republican value in one single act of the shooters,” McConaughey asserted Tuesday.
“We’ve got a chance right now to reach for and to grasp a higher ground above our political affiliations,” he continued, “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.”