Matthew McConaughey Delivers Impassioned Speech About Gun Safety at White House Press Briefing

The 51-year-old actor — a Uvalde, Texas, native — urged lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to "rise above" partisanship and make gun safety legislation the Uvalde shooting victims' legacy

Academy Award–winning actor Matthew McConaughey attended the White House press briefing Tuesday afternoon to deliver remarks about the Uvalde, Texas, elementary school shooting — which killed 19 students and two teachers on May 24 — and what it means for the future of the nation.

Around 2:30 p.m. local time, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre invited McConaughey, 52, to the briefing room stage, where he called on Congress, as a father and gun owner, to not let this opportunity for change slip away.

"This should not be a partisan issue," McConaughey said during his emotional, 21-minute speech. "There is not a democratic or republican value in one single act of these shooters, but people in power have failed to act."

McConaughey — who was born in Uvalde — and his wife, Camila Alves McConaughey, spent several days in the actor's hometown visiting with victims' families. They listened to numerous stories about the innocent lives lost, and came to realize that every single family shared a common goal: to make the massacre matter.

Matthew McConaughey appearing at the White House press briefing to talk gun safety and share stories/artwork of the Uvalde mass shooting victims
Matthew McConaughey shows the artwork of Uvalde shooting victim Alithia Ramirez during a White House press briefing. White House

"How can the loss of these lives matter?" McConaughey asked in the briefing. "While we honor and acknowledge the victims, we need to recognize that this time, it seems that something is different. There is the sense that perhaps there is a viable path forward [for enacting gun safety legislation]."

For more on this story, listen below to our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day.

McConaughey said that each person he has spoken with about gun violence — including families of shooting victims, Texas rangers, hunters, Border Patrol agents, and responsible gun owners who firmly believe in the Second Amendment — told him something to the effect of, "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."

robb elementary school
A makeshift memorial outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two adults were fatally shot May 24. Michael M. Santiago/Getty

McConaughey, determining that tangible progress is on the table, urged Congress to take "reasonable" and "practical" steps toward protecting Americans by mandating background checks for gun ownership, strengthening "red flag" laws, raising the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic rifle to 21, requiring a waiting period for those rifles, and investing in mental health care.

"Responsible gun owners are fed up with the Second Amendment being abused and hijacked by some deranged individuals," he said. "These regulations are not a step back, they're a step forward for a civil society and for the Second Amendment."

He continued by acknowledging that these regulations are not a cure-all, but a strong step toward protecting citizens, adding, "As divided as our country is, this gun responsibility issue is one that we agree on more than we don't."

In response to the increasingly visible wave of mass shootings across the U.S., many Americans have similarly put pressure on lawmakers to enact gun safety legislation that helps prevent further harm. On Monday, New York politicians set a precedent for how states can effect change by signing 10 new gun-related bills into law, and this week, U.S. Senate has been discussing the possibility of passing bipartisan gun safety legislation.

"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 on our hands?" McConaughey asked toward the close of his speech.

"We can't truly be leaders if we're only living for re-election."

To express your opinion on gun reform proposals to your own representatives in Congress, you can look them up and contact them here:

Related Articles