By Beatriz Pascual Macias
Washington, Jun 7 (EFE).- Actor Matthew McConaughey – who was born in Uvalde, Texas, and is a gun owner – on Tuesday went to the White House to demand that lawmakers set aside their differences and approve real changes to halt mass shootings once and for all.
McConaughey’s speech was awaited with great anticipation in the White House press room, but reporters were surprised by the level of detail that he provided in his remarks.
The actor described, for example, the bodies of the 19 children murdered at Robb Elementary School in his hometown and the level of destruction that the AR-15 assault rifle used in the attack caused on their bodies, making some of the victims identifiable only by DNA testing or by the clothing their parents said they were wearing.
McConaughey, who last week traveled to Uvalde to meet with some of the families, told the story of Maite Rodriguez, 10, and who wanted to be a marine biologist when she got older.
“Maite wore green high top Converse with a heart she had hand-drawn on the right toe, because they represented her love of nature,” he said of one of the slain students.
“She wore (them) every day,” said the actor as his wife Camila Alves displayed the pair of 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. How about that.”
With his voice becoming more tremulous as he spoke, the actor hit the podium used by the White House press secretary with his closed fist and, after clearing his throat, he continued talking about Maite and the other murdered 9- and 10-year-olds.
He told the story of Alithia Ramirez, who dreamed of studying art in Paris, adding that her father had just found a job and each night told his daughter that now he’d be able to take her to Disney World with the money he was earning.
McConaughey spoke about Eliahna Garcia, who was preparing to read a Bible passage during a Wednesday night mass, and also about Irma Garcia, one of the two teachers killed by the lone gunman and whose husband died of a heart attack just hours after learning that his wife had been killed.
He said that the parents he met with had told him that they wanted to make sure that the loss of their children’s lives meant something or made a difference.
Ranging between anger and sadness, the actor said that there is “a chance, right now,” to approve laws that make it more difficult for the “bad guys” to acquire weapons.
He said that the US is more united than one might think from looking at legislators’ stances alone and that society is demanding laws that allow “responsible” gun ownership, including background checks for gun buyers, raising the age at which one can buy a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21, and more, repeating some of the points he had made in an op-ed published on Monday.
“These are reasonable, practical, tactical regulations,” McConaughey said. “Responsible gun owners are fed up with the Second Amendment being abused and hijacked by some deranged individuals and these regulations are not a step back. They’re a step forward for civil society.”
“Is this a cure all? Hell no. But people are hurting, families are hurting,” the actor said. “This should not be a partisan issue. There is not a Democratic or Republican value in a single one of these shooters. But people in power have failed to act. So we’re asking you and I’m asking you will you please ask yourselves? Can both sides rise above? Can both sides see beyond the political problem at hand and admit that we have a life preservation problem?”
The White House said that McConaughey met briefly with President Joe Biden on Tuesday, and in recent days he has also met with various Democratic and Republican lawmakers, including those negotiating a bill to increase controls on guns, who say they expect to be able to strike an agreement before the end of the week.
Gun violence is the main cause of death for people age 18 and under in the US, where each year 18,000 children and teenagers are killed or wounded by gunfire, according to the organization Every Town for Gun Safety.