Matthew McConaughey slams ‘vicious’ gun debate after Uvalde shooting

“I felt like I was walking a fine line between homage and exploitation, and I didn’t want to cross that line,” McConaughey said of the stories of the Uvalde victims in DC

Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey reflected on the aftermath of the May 2022 Uvalde shooting and his subsequent White House speech.

McConaughey wrote an opinion piece for Esquire detailing his emotional connection to the massacre in the town where he grew up until he was 10 years old.

“I am disgusted by the spate of mass shootings in America – especially in schools, which are reputed to be among the safest places for our children and the next additions to our own homes. But this time it felt different, more personal,” McConaughey wrote of his return to Uvalde, Texas. “Now for the first time my innocent childhood memories of Uvalde felt naïve – more like dreams than memories, slightly fuzzy and suddenly overly sacred. At times like these, we all feel a little dumber. We hug our kids a little longer because we know their innocence won’t last as long as ours and we hope their kids don’t know the same.”

McConaughey and his wife Camila Alves spoke to families of the 19 children killed at their elementary school and spoke to Republican Congressman Tony Gonzales, who is representing Uvalde. The McConaughey family visited the Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home, met with mental health advisors and first responders, and participated in a roundtable at City Hall.

“Observing from the front lines and then sharing what I saw – I feel a bit like a cheater. Am I trespassing?” McConaughey wrote. “Share sacred secrets that aren’t my stories? I hope not.”

McConaughey also traveled to Washington, DC to share the reports he learned at Uvalde.

“I’m not a politician. I don’t speak your language. But the back-and-forth between gun rights supporters on the one hand and gun control supporters on the other is vicious, quintessentially American and, yes, very political,” McConaughey said. “What I had at that moment were the raw, first-hand accounts of the Uvalde families we had spent time with. I remembered one constant from those conversations, a wish every parent expressed to us: “I just want my child’s death to matter.” The emphasis was always on the last word: “Make your life matter.'”

McConaughey’s presence and speech at the White House also kept gun control in the news: “A tragedy like Uvalde can disappear from the front page overnight,” he said. “The attention goes elsewhere; the public goes on. Whatever I could do, I had to do it now.”

The True Detective grad had “no specific plan other than knocking on Senator Mitch McConnell’s door” when he headed to DC

“I proposed a new semantic framing of the problem: instead of gun control, as it’s been called, I’m arguing that it’s really about gun responsibility,” McConaughey said. “I had to let DC and the general public know where I stand.”

He summarized its purpose in the nation’s capital as a “channel for exchanging stories from the frontline in Uvalde”.

Over four days and multiple meetings in DC, McConaughey was told he was “serving as a broker,” but he was “skeptical” that any progress behind closed doors would make a real difference.

Addressing the nation in the White House press briefing room, McConaughey admitted, “I felt like I was walking a fine line between homage and exploitation, and I didn’t want to cross that line.”

After the Uvalde massacre, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was passed.

“Does the bill settle everything? No way. No law will heal Uvalde or any community that has suffered a similar tragedy. Does it point us in the right direction? Yes,” McConaughey wrote. “When we spoke to the families after the bill was passed, they expressed their gratitude. It won’t bring their children back, but it does make them feel like their government has finally listened, to a degree.”

McConaughey continued, “Have our efforts made an impact? I was told they did. Part of me hopes that’s true. But another part of me is frustrated that we could make a difference. We didn’t show up on the hill with a new invention or a groundbreaking argument. We were merely helping to structure the discussion in a sensible way for all sides to digest. We have tried to responsibly share the stories of Alithia, Maite, Ellie, Irma, Jose and the other victims in Uvalde.”

McConaughey had to face a truth about American politics: “Sometimes it feels like politicians don’t really want solutions because solutions would put them out of work.”

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Lindsay Lowe

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