Actor Matthew McConaughey delivered impassioned and at-times emotional remarks at the White House press briefing on Tuesday, telling the stories of those who died in the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and urging more action on gun control.
McConaughey, a Uvalde native, said he and his wife, Camila Alves, spent most of the past week with the families of those who were killed in his hometown. He showed pictures of their artwork and brought to the briefing room green Converse shoes like the ones that one girl wore every day that were used to identify her body after the shooting. She had drawn a heart on one of the shoes.
He said he needed to tell their stories to show how action needed to be taken to honor the lives of the 19 children and two teachers killed at Robb Elementary School last month.
“You know what every one of these parents wanted, what they asked us for? What every parent separately expressed in their own way to Camila and me? That they want their children’s dreams to live on. That they want their children’s dreams to continue, to accomplish something after they are gone. They want to make their loss of life matter,” McConaughey said.
He said there was now a “window of opportunity” to enact meaningful gun legislation reform and called for universal background checks, raising the minimum age for purchasing an AR-15 to 21, a waiting period for purchasing AR-15s and the implementation of red flag laws.
“These are reasonable, practical, tactical regulations to our nation, states, communities, schools and homes. Responsible gun owners are fed up with the Second Amendment being abused and hijacked by some deranged individuals. These regulations are not a step back – they’re a step forward for a civil society and, and the Second Amendment,” McConaughey said in a roughly 20-minute speech from the podium.
The Academy Award-winning actor met briefly with President Joe Biden before appearing at the podium, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
McConaughey spoke in great detail about the children and what dreams they held before they were killed – one wanted to be a marine biologist, one had been preparing to read a Bible verse at church the next week, another wanted to go to art school in Paris.
“You could feel the shock in the town. You could feel the pain, the denial, the disillusion, anger, blame, sadness, loss of lives, dreams halted,” he said.
McConaughey said, “Due to the exceptionally large exit wounds of an AR-15 rifle, most of the bodies so mutilated that only DNA test or green Converse could identify them. Many children were left not only dead but hollow. So, yes, counselors are going to be needed in Uvalde for a long time.”
“We got to take a sober, humble, and honest look in the mirror and rebrand ourselves based on what we truly value. What we truly value. We got to get some real courage and honor our immortal obligations instead of our party affiliations,” McConaughey said.
He continued, “Enough with the counterpunching. Enough of the invalidation of the other side. Let’s come to the common table that represents the American people. Find a middle ground, the place where most of us Americans live anyway. Especially on this issue. Because I promise you, America, you and me, we are not as divided as we are being told we are.”
McConaughey held meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill earlier in the day to discuss gun reform legislation
The “Dallas Buyers Club” actor publicly weighed a run for governor in Texas last year but ultimately ruled one out – for now. He said it was “a path that I’m choosing not to take at this moment.”
McConaughey told reporters on Capitol Hill on Tuesday he hoped he was making progress in his meetings with lawmakers. He had left a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and was heading to another meeting with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
The President earlier on Tuesday met with Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who is leading bipartisan negotiations on gun reform. Murphy told reporters at the White House he met with the President for about half an hour and spoke about the outlines of the ongoing gun reform negotiations. Murphy emphasized how much he appreciated Biden and the White House giving senators “space” to try and reach a deal, and said his goal remains to reach a deal by the end of this week.
While the odds of any sweeping reforms remain very steep, lawmakers have expressed optimism that a deal for narrow and targeted bill could be reached as soon as the end of this week. Jean-Pierre said Monday Biden was “encouraged” by the Senate negotiations on gun control measures.
The President delivered an impassioned speech from the White House after the mass shooting at the Uvalde elementary school last month and ratcheted up the pressure on Congress to act. He has called on Congress to implement stricter gun laws, including a ban on assault weapons, tougher background check laws and a higher minimum age of purchase.
CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to clarify that the green Converse shoes that Camila Alves held in the briefing room were replicas of the ones worn by a victim of the Uvalde shooting.
CNN’s Phil Mattingly and Kristin Wilson contributed to this report.