Matthew McConaughey delivers emotional speech about victims of his native Uvalde

At the White House, the Oscar-winning actor asked lawmakers to view gun control as a nonpartisan issue and admit the country has a ‘life preservation problem’

Actor Matthew McConaughey during his speech on Tuesday at the White House.

The massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas in which 21 people died has touched Matthew McConaughey very closely. It was in this Texas town where the Oscar-winning actor was born 52 years ago, and the place where he returned last week to speak with the relatives of the victims of the gunman, an 18-year-old named Salvador Ramos.

On Tuesday, McConaughey was at the White House to ask for gun reform. “We are in a window of opportunity right now that we have not been in before, a window where it seems like real change, real change can happen,” McConaughey told reporters, before being introduced by Secretary White House press officer Karine Jean-Pierre as someone who owns guns.

During his emotional address, he remembered some of the children who were killed inside Robb Elementary School on May 24. McConaughey was in Uvalde a few days ago and met with relatives of the victims, and he talked about them from the White House podium. He showed a colorful drawing made by Alithia Ramírez, a 10-year-old girl who wanted to attend art school in Paris one day. He also spoke of Maite Rodríguez’s dreams of being a marine biologist, pointing to a pair of green Converse sneakers that his wife, Camila Alves, was holding and that belonged to the minor. “Green Converse with a heart on the right toe,” McConaughey said. “These are the same green Converse shoes on her feet that turned out to be the only clear evidence that could identify her after the shooting. How about that?” he asked himself, banging on the lectern in the press room.

Before his speech to the media, the actor briefly met with President Joe Biden and members of the US Congress. Lawmakers, shooting victims and advocates for tougher gun laws, including the actor, spoke in Washington on Tuesday in favor of legislation to reduce mass shootings amid signs of movement over possible change. McConaughey said that when he was in Uvalde, the families of the victims told him that they wanted those losses to matter. “They want their children’s dreams to live on,” said the actor.

“We consoled so many people,” he said about his talks with families. “And you know what they all said? ‘We want safe, secure schools and we want gun laws that won’t make it so easy for bad guys to get these damn guns.’ “We need to invest in mental health care. We need safer schools,” insisted McConaughey. “We need to restore our American values and we need responsible gun ownership. We need background checks,” he continued. “We need to raise the minimum age to buy an AR-15 rifle to 21.” In his opinion, being a responsible gun owner and regulating its access is not in contradiction with the Second Amendment, which protects the right to bear arms.

Camila Alves McConaughey listens to her husband while holding sneakers that belonged to the late Maite Yuleana Rodríguez, 10.
Camila Alves McConaughey listens to her husband while holding sneakers that belonged to the late Maite Yuleana Rodríguez, 10.Susan Walsh (AP)

McConaughey, who won the Oscar for best actor in 2014 for the movie Dallas Buyers Club, and who considered running for governor of Texas (something he ultimately ruled out despite some favorable polls), said the gun debate should be a “nonpartisan issue.” “As divided as our country is, the gun responsibility issue is one that we agree on,” he asserted. “There is not a Democratic or Republican value in one single act of these shooters. Can both sides see beyond the political problem at hand and admit that we have a life preservation problem on our hands?”

Democrats in the Senate said on Tuesday they were encouraged by possible changes due to ongoing talks with Republicans. The White House for its part said that President Biden is aiming to pass some sort of legislation, even if no agreement can be reached on banning assault rifles, while Congress debates federal gun legislation after over a decade of inaction on the issue. The renewed push to confront gun violence comes after a spate of mass shootings across the country.

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