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Images needn’t be graphic for ravages of gun violence to flash in our minds

Camila Alves McConaughey holds a pair of green Converse tennis shoes similar to those worn by Uvalde shooting victim Maite Yuleana Rodriguez, 10, as her husband, actor Matthew McConaughey, a native of Uvalde, Texas, joins White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre for the daily briefing at the White House in Washington on June 7.Susan Walsh/Associated Press

Re “Matthew McConaughey makes emotional plea for lawmakers to ‘act on gun responsibility’ ” (, June 7): The Oscar-winning actor’s call for more responsible gun ownership and mental health care hit all the appropriate points, but what made his speech at the White House particularly memorable was his relaying of the Uvalde, Texas, children’s hopes and dreams.

As his voice broke, I flashed back to March 8, 2021, when our own loved one — a man we had known for almost 14 years and had taken into our home, the rapper and activist Xavier Roberson (“Obe Noir”) — was gunned down on the streets of Houston, near where we used to live. McConaughey depicted the brutal reality of gun violence without any graphic descriptions when he spoke of the little girl who could be identified only by her green Converse sneakers. That provided the framework by which to visualize our own children and other people we care about in that situation, and it was grave and heart-wrenching.


It also served as a subtle reminder of our tendency to rely on visual proof or personal experience before applying the appropriate amount of emotion and intellect to an issue. Out of desperation for justice, Emmett Till’s mother insisted that her son’s funeral be open casket, and the photos of his body that were released sparked a movement. The smartphone video footage of George Floyd dying inspired a movement.

But it should not take a tragedy and graphic images to inspire empathy in our lawmakers or ignite in us the passion to demand action.

Michelle Cunningham