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Matthew McConaughey makes emotional plea for lawmakers to ‘act on gun responsibility’

Actor Matthew McConaughey held an image of Alithia Ramirez, 10, who was killed in the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, as he spoke during a press briefing at the White House on Tuesday.Evan Vucci/Associated Press

Actor Matthew McConaughey is speaking out on gun violence in the wake of the mass shooting that killed 19 students and two teachers in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas, last month.

McConaughey, who last year weighed a run for governor of Texas, met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill Tuesday and then joined White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in the briefing room to discuss gun legislation reform and call for bipartisan action.

The actor, 52, and his wife, Camila Alves, spent days in Uvalde speaking with families of the victims after the shooting, he said.

“To make the loss of these lives matter, my wife and I, Camila, spent most of last week on the ground with the families,” McConaughey began. He eulogized several of the victims, showing photos of their artwork, describing the green Converse sneakers worn by one little girl, and sharing the dreams of one child who hoped someday to be a marine biologist.

“How can we honor these deaths by keeping the dreams of these children and teachers alive?” he asked.

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A visibly upset McConaughey, a father of three and a gun owner himself, slammed the briefing room podium at one point and called the moment a “window of opportunity” to take action.

“As divided as our country is, this gun responsibility issue is one that we agree on more than we don’t ... this should be a non-partisan issue,” he said.

Matthew McConaughey discusses Uvalde victims
Matthew McConaughey discusses Uvalde victims, calls for gun control measures during the Tuesday White House press briefing.

McConaughey called on Congress to expand background checks for gun purchases and raise the minimum age to purchase an AR-15 style assault rifle from 18 to 21.

“We want secure and safe schools and we want gun laws that won’t make it so easy for the bad guys to get the damn guns,” McConaughey said in the 22-minute speech. He spoke about how his mother taught kindergarten less than a mile from Uvalde’s Robb Elementary School. He also said Uvalde is the town where he learned about the responsibilities that come with gun ownership.

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“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,” he said.

Camila Alves McConaughey, wife of actor Matthew McConaughey, held a pair of shoes worn by one of the victims of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, during the daily news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House.Win McNamee/Getty Images

“We need to invest in mental healthcare,” McConaughey continued. “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.

“Is this a cure all? Hell no, but people are hurting.”

McConaughey’s White House remarks come a day after the Austin American Statesmen published an opinion piece penned by the actor.

In the piece, McConaughey pushed for what he called “gun responsibility” rather than gun control.

“There is a difference between control and responsibility,” McConaughey wrote. “The first is a mandate that can infringe on our right; the second is a duty that will preserve it. There is no constitutional barrier to gun responsibility. Keeping firearms out of the hands of dangerous people is not only the responsible things to do, it is the best way to protect the Second Amendment. We can do both.”

The Oscar winner added that “saving the unnecessary loss of lives is not a partisan issue.”

“We need to focus on corrections and countermeasures that can also and immediately reduce the gun violence tragedies that have become too common in our country,” he wrote.

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He outlined four ways he believes lawmakers can make bipartisan compromises “to restore responsible gun ownership,” including: background checks on all gun purchases; expansion of red flag laws; a national waiting period on the purchase of assault rifles; and raising the age for purchasing an assault rifle to 21, unless the buyer is in the military.

“Red Flag Laws should be the law of the land ... to empower loved ones or law enforcement to petition courts to temporarily prevent individuals who may be a threat to themselves or others from purchasing or accessing firearms,” McConaughey wrote.

Actor Matthew McConaughey held an image of Alithia Ramirez, 10, who was killed in the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, as he spoke during a press briefing at the White House.Evan Vucci/Associated Press

He also argued that a waiting period to buy an assault rifle could help prevent mass shootings.

“Individuals often purchase weapons in a fit of rage, harming themselves or others,” he wrote. “Studies show that mandatory waiting periods reduced homicides by 17 percent. Gun suicides account for the majority of US gun deaths. A waiting period to purchase an assault rifle is an acceptable sacrifice for responsible gun owners when it can prevent a mass shooting crime of passion or suicide.”

Earlier Tuesday, McConaughey met with President Biden, as well as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.


Brittany Bowker can be reached at brittany.bowker@globe.com. Follow her @brittbowker and also on Instagram @brittbowker.