WASHINGTON — Actor Matthew McConaughey joined the White House briefing on Tuesday to pay tribute to the victims of the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting — and to urge Congress to take action on gun legislation.
“Make the loss of these lives matter,” the Uvalde native pleaded in emotional remarks.
McConaughey said he and his wife Camila had spent most of the past week in Uvalde, spending time with the families of the 19 schoolchildren and two teachers who were murdered in the mass shooting. He got emotional while speaking about Maite Rodriguez, a 10-year-old girl who cared deeply about the environment and dreamed of becoming a marine biologist.
Camila Alves McConaughey was holding the girl’s green high-top Converse shoes, with a heart she’d drawn on one of the shoes to represent “her love of nature,” the actor said.
“She wore these every day, green Converse, with a heart on the right toe. These are the same green Converse that turned out to be the only clear evidence that could identify her at the shooting,” McConaughey said.
He also recounted meeting a cosmetologist who was “well-versed in mortuary makeup.”
“That’s the task of making the victims appear as peaceful and natural as possible for their open-casket viewings,” he said, but “these bodies were very different. They needed much more than makeup to be presentable. They needed extensive restoration. Why? Due to the exceptionally large exit wounds of an AR-15 rifle, most of the bodies (were) so mutilated that only DNA tests, or green Converse, could identify them.”
Two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News that the shoes the McConaugheys had with them in the briefing room were replicas, and that the girl’s family has the shoes she was wearing at the time of the shooting.
McConaughey’s remarks came as he’s gone to the Capitol to meet with lawmakers and urge them to take action on guns. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said McConaughey had also “met briefly” with President Joe Biden “to talk about the importance of of taking action keeping our communities safe.”
McConaughey said during the briefing that Uvalde was where he got his first shotgun, and “where I was taught to revere the power and the capability of the tool that we call a gun. Uvalde is where I learned responsible gun ownership.”
But he said the Uvalde shooting shows changes are needed.
“We need responsible gun ownership,” McConaughey said. “We need background checks. We need to raise the minimum age to purchase an AR-15 rifle to 21. We need a waiting period for those rifles. We need red flag laws, and consequences for those who abuse them. These are reasonable practical tactical regulations.”
He added that “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 civil society.”
McConaughey, who flirted with running for governor in Texas last year, said, “This should not be a partisan issue. There is not a Democratic or Republican value in one single act of these shooters.”
“We got to get some real courage and honor our moral obligations,” he said.
Kristen Welker contributed.