Matthew McConaughey, in an emotional speech at the White House on Tuesday, called for lawmakers to act on bipartisan gun reforms — two weeks after a mass shooting at a school in the actor’s Texas hometown left 19 students and two teachers dead.
“We need to invest in mental health care, we need safer schools, we need to restrain sensationalized media coverage, we need to restore our family values, we need to restore our American values and we need responsible gun ownership,” McConaughey said at the daily White House press briefing.
Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said McConaughey met with President Joe Biden just before the briefing “on taking action and keeping our communities safe.” The actor stressed the need for gun restrictions, such as background checks, red flag laws, raising the minimum age of purchase and a waiting period for guns such as AR-15 rifles.
His plea for tighter gun restrictions comes two weeks to the day after an 18-year-old gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where McConaughey grew up. The killings — along with a string of other mass shootings across the country in recent weeks — have ignited the gun reform debate in the U.S., as gun safety advocates press Congress to pass stricter laws.
Earlier Tuesday, McConaughey met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to discuss gun legislation.
McConaughey in his speech recounted stories of some of the victims of the Uvalde shooting whose parents he met when he and his wife, Camila Alves, visited the town last week. He appeared to choke up multiple times throughout the speech as he spoke about the young victims and their dreams.
At one point, McConaughey slammed the podium after he showed the green Converse sneakers one girl wore that were later used to identify her.
“Where do we start?” McConaughey asked. “… We start by making the loss of these lives matter.”
The actor also took a hit at “people in power” who he said had “failed to act.” He called on lawmakers to toss partisan politics to the side and instead find middle ground on the issue and pass gun regulations.
Negotiations in Congress on a bipartisan gun reform deal are ongoing, but it’s unclear whether Democrats and Republicans will come to an agreement on a package that would limit gun rights.
“Let’s admit it: We can’t truly be leaders if we’re only living for reelection,” McConaughey said.