by Jaden Edison, The Texas Tribune.
Actor Matthew McConaughey, a Uvalde native, called for bipartisan action on mental health reform, stricter gun legislation and consequences for people who violate gun laws in his appearance at the White House on Tuesday.
The Austin-area resident was visibly choked up while sharing stories of the families affected by the mass shooting at Robb Elementary that left 19 fourth graders and two teachers dead and at least 17 others injured.
“There is a sense that perhaps there’s a viable path forward,” McConaughey said at a press briefing in the James S. Brady briefing room after he met with President Joe Biden. “Responsible parties in this debate seem to at least be committed to sitting down and having a real conversation about a new and improved path forward, a path that can bring us closer together and make us safer as a country, a path that can actually get something done this time.”
McConaughey did not take questions from reporters after his remarks, which followed a recently published op-ed in the Austin American-Statesman, in which he declared that “business as usual isn’t working.”
McConaughey flirted with the idea of running for Texas governor last year but later opted out, saying he wanted to instead focus on “creating pathways for people to succeed in life.” The self-proclaimed responsible gun owner was noncommittal to a political party at the time, describing himself as “aggressively centrist.”
“We need responsible gun ownership. … We need background checks,” he said Tuesday. “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.”
In Texas, 18 is the legal age to buy a rifle. The Uvalde shooter purchased two AR-platform rifles within days of turning 18 last month.
Since the shooting in Uvalde, Texas Republican officials have repeatedly made calls for action on mental health but have otherwise been noncommittal to reforming gun laws. Gov. Greg Abbott recently asked the state Legislature to form special committees to make recommendations in the aftermath of the massacre.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, the lead GOP negotiator in the Senate’s efforts to pass bipartisan gun safety legislation, expressed little interest in Democrats’ proposals, which include raising the age to purchase semi-automatic weapons to 21 and outlawing the sale, manufacture, transfer or possession of large-capacity magazines.
“What I’m interested in is keeping guns out of the hands of those who, by current law, are not supposed to have them,” Cornyn said Monday in a Senate floor speech. “People with mental health problems, people … who have criminal records.”
Standing in the White House with a Texas-shaped pin on his black suit jacket, McConaughey said responses to the Uvalde shooting should be “a nonpartisan issue.”
“There is not a Democratic or Republican value in one single act of these shooters,” McConaughey said. “But people in power have failed to act. So we’re asking you and I’m asking you … 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? We got a chance right now to reach for and to grasp a higher ground above our political affiliations.”
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