A pair of green Converse shoes, with a simple hand-drawn heart just above the right toe, sat on Camila Alves’ knees as her husband, Matthew McConaughey, an actor and gun owner himself, delivers an impassioned speech about gun control at the White House briefing room.
These Converse once belonged to Maite Rodriguez, a 9-year-old-girl who loved nature and had ambitions of becoming a marine biologist. She was also one of the 19 children that were killed in the shooting at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on May 24th.
“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?” McConaughey said with raw emotion, pounding the lectern with anger and vexation directed at US lawmakers who have failed to act on gun responsibility before.
In his speech, McConaughey mentioned that he doesn’t call for a complete ban on guns; instead, he believes that guns should come with responsibility and much stricter laws. That way, the Second Amendment remains protected but it also prevents firearms from reaching the hands of dangerous people.
He also brought up his connections to Uvalde, making the speech all the more hard-hitting and personal. McConaughey talked about his mother, who used to teach at a kindergarten less than a mile away from Robb Elementary, and he also mentioned how Uvalde was the place he learned about responsible gun ownership in his youth.
“Uvalde is where I was taught to revere the power and the capability of the tool that we call a gun,” he said.
After hearing about what happened in his hometown, McConaughey and his wife drove to Uvalde to spend time with the families of the victims as well as others within the community who were affected by the mass shooting.
Every parent that he has spoken to expressed that “they want their children’s dreams to live on” and that “they want to make their loss of life matter.”
He recounted several personal stories of the victims in his speech, including that of Alithia Ramirez, who was an aspiring artist and dreamed of attending an art school in Paris. He held up her artwork as he spoke: a self-portrait of Alithia, with a friend in heaven looking down on her drawing the very same picture.
Then came Eliahna “Ellie” Garcia, who was said to be “the biggest hugger of the family.” She loved dancing and going to church; she was looking forward to reading a Bible verse at a church service on the day after her death, May 25th.
McConaughey knows that gun legislation is not a “cure-all,” and that it would not end mass shootings, but it would initiate change and help avert the ongoing “epidemic of indiscriminate mass shootings, of parents burying their children, of inaction, and buck-passing,” as he mentions in his op-ed for the Austin American-Statesman.
Also in his op-ed, McConaughey signalled that more background checks are essential, more gun safety training, safe storage proposals, boosted school safety as well as minimum age requirements for gun ownership and some mandatory national waiting periods before purchasing assault rifles, because people often obtain weapons “in a fit of rage, harming themselves or others.” He also wrote about how more mental health care resources are now more urgent than ever.
“We need to invest in mental healthcare. We need safer schools. We need to restrain sensationalized media coverage. We need to restore our family values. We need to restore our American values and we need responsible gun ownership,” McConaughey said.
And I agree.
Gun legislation in the United States needs serious amendments, as clearly there is something very wrong with their current gun laws and their current system.
So far in 2022, there have been 27 school shootings in the United States and as of June 5th, 246 mass shootings, meaning the United States is on its way to making 2022 its worst year for mass shootings yet.
Even though a complete gun ban is likely never going to happen, responsible gun owners shouldn’t have to pay the price for the irresponsibility of others.
Instead, US lawmakers need to act fast in imposing laws that protect the rights of the Second Amendment. However they also need prevent further such tragedies from occurring. These laws should have been made years, if not decades, ago.
Like McConaughey says, right now “we are in a window of opportunity,” one “that we have not been in before. A window where it seems like real change can happen.”
How many more mass shootings must happen and how much more loss can people take before the United States finally wakes up and does something about it?
You can watch McConaughey’s full speech here.
Featured Image Credit: New York Post