Actor Matthew McConaughey visited the White House this week after spending time with families affected by the Uvalde, Texas school shooting.
Whenever an actor gets involved in some political issue, it’s easy to dismiss that story. What does an actor know about anything? (Or at least, what does some actor know about a topic that the rest of us don’t?) But for Matthew McConaughey, it’s a little different.
He’s a native of Uvalde, Texas, where an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 elementary school students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School on May 24. To say this particular mass shooting hit home for him is an understatement.
What might be surprising to some is that McConaughey’s impassioned call for gun control action doesn’t come from a Hollywood type who hates guns.
McConaughey called for “reasonable, practical, tactical” gun regulations in the form of a host of common-sense reforms.
“Uvalde is where I was taught to revere the power and the capability of the tool that we call a gun,” he said. “Uvalde is where I learned responsible gun ownership.”
But McConaughey said making schools safer and expanding background checks should be a nonpartisan issue.
The actor relayed stories he and his wife, Camila, heard from the people of Uvalde, including a cosmetologist versed in mortuary makeup, “the task of making the victims appear as peaceful and natural as possible for their open-casket viewings.”
However, he said, the bodies of the shooting victims were a different matter. They needed more than makeup to be “presentable.” They needed “extensive restoration” because of “exceptionally large exit wounds of an AR-15 rifle.”
He talked about meeting with families of the victims of the shooting. One involved 9-year-old Maite Rodriguez, one of the students killed. He said she wore green Converse shoes and that she drew a heart on the right toe of those shoes. “These are the same green Converse on her feet that turned out to be the only clear evidence that could identify her after the shooting,” he said, as Camila held up the shoes. “How about that s—?”
Protecting the Second Amendment
The people he spoke with all said the same thing, he said:
We want secure and safe schools, and we want gun laws that won’t make it so easy for the bad guys to get these damn guns.
He also said responsible gun owners are “fed up” with “deranged” people abusing and hijacking the Second Amendment to commit these killings.
He called for investment in mental health care, for safer schools and the restraint of “sensational media coverage.”
“We need to restore our family values. We need to restore our American values. And we need responsible gun ownership — responsible gun ownership,” he said.
He also demanded background checks, raising the minimum age to purchase an AR-15 rifle to 21, a waiting period for those rifles and red-flag laws and consequences for those who abuse them.
But he said such changes are “not a step back; they’re a step forward for a civil society and — and the Second Amendment. “
“Look, is this a cure-all? Hell no,” he said. “But people are hurting — families are, parents are. And look, as — as divided as our country is, this gun responsibility issue is one that we agree on more than we don’t. It really is. But this should be a nonpartisan issue. This should not be a partisan issue. There is not a Democratic or Republican value in one single act of these shooters.”
Nowhere in his speech did he advocate taking guns away from gun owners. I’m sure there are those extremists who will try to portray it that way. But you can read the transcript here.
‘Window of opportunity’
Mass shootings in this country are certainly nothing new. But the Uvalde school shooting might be a little different, he said.
“There is a sense that perhaps there is a viable path forward,” McConaughey said. “Responsible parties in this debate seem to at least be committed to sitting down and having a real conversation about a new and improved path forward — a path that can bring us closer together and make us safer as a country, a path that can actually get something done this time.”
He called the aftermath of the Uvalde shooting a “window of opportunity” where it seems like “real change” can happen.
“I’m here today in the hopes of applying what energy, reason, and passion that I have into trying to turn this moment into a reality. Because as I said, this moment is different,” he said.
For many, it does feel like an important moment. For some of us, it feels like just the latest “last straw.”
And we sit and wait for lawmakers to act by actually accomplishing something.
What’s so wrong with working together?
His speech reminded me not of a specific person but of a type of person I’d like to be able to vote for.
Every election cycle, there is almost always a candidate on both sides of the political spectrum that catches my eye. They talk about things like common sense, coming together, reaching across the aisle and getting things done.
That appeals to the centrist in me.
I take time to imagine what might be different if only one of them could be elected. But I don’t spend a lot of time on those thoughts.
I know, invariably, those will be among the first candidates to get knocked out of the race. American voters, it seems, don’t care about middle ground. They want extremes.
No one wants anyone to work together; they want one side to trample the other.
Don’t blame “the media” for that. The media doesn’t cast a ballot; voters do. Voters knock the “common sense, come together” candidates out of the races. Instead, we end up with candidates who are all the way to the right or all the way to the left.
Compromise? What’s that? Working together? No, it’s our way or the highway.
Matthew McConaughey himself hinted last year he was considering a run for the governor’s office in Texas. He didn’t specify, however, whether he’d run as a Republican, a Democrat or an independent.
But the Texas Tribune reported he has described himself as “aggressively centrist” but decided not to run.
It might be that some voters see the name Matthew McConaughey on a ballot. As a centrist, it would almost have to be his star appeal, not his politics, that attract votes.
Wanting to work together to achieve compromise, it seems, is just too much to ask.