Matthew McConaughey meets Biden, makes passionate plea for gun reform at White House press briefing

He visited lawmakers on Capitol Hill Monday and Tuesday to lobby for change.

June 7, 2022, 4:26 PM

After meeting with President Joe Biden, Academy Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey, a native of Uvalde, Texas, made a passionate plea for gun reform at Tuesday's White House press briefing, as Congress considers new legislation this week.

McConaughey, noting he was a gun owner, gave moving details of his meetings with grieving families last week in his hometown.

"The common thread -- independent of the anger and the confusion and sadness -- it was the same. How can these families continue to honor these deaths by keeping the dreams of these children and teachers alive? How can we make the loss of these lives matter?" he began."While we honor and acknowledge the victims, we need to recognize that this time, seems that something is different."

PHOTO: Matthew McConaughey becomes emotional as he holds up a picture of 10-year-old victim Alithia Ramirez as he speaks to reporters about the school shooting in Uvalde during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, June 7, 2022.
Actor Matthew McConaughey, a native of Uvalde, Texas as well as a father and a gun owner, becomes emotional as he holds up a picture of 10-year-old victim Alithia Ramirez as he speaks to reporters about the school shooting in Uvalde during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, June 7, 2022.
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

"Can both sides see beyond the political problem at hand and admit that we have a life preservation problem on our hands?" McConaughey continued, at times fighting back tears. "We're got to take a sober, humble, and honest look in the mirror and rebrand ourselves based on what we truly value."

His wife, Camila Alves, sitting nearby, brought bright green high-top Converse sneakers from one of the victims in the massacre at Robb Elementary school, Maite Rodriguez. McConaughey said she wore them because of her love of nature and described how she wanted to become a marine biologist. He spoke of how the small shoes -- with a heart she'd drawn on the right toe -- were the "only clear evidence that could identify her."

"These bodies were very different," he said of the 19 children and two teachers killed. "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."

"Many children were left not only dead -- but hollow," he added.

PHOTO: Camila Alves McConaughey, wife of actor Matthew McConaughey, holds a pair of shoes worn by one of the victims of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, during the daily news conference at the White House on June 07, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Camila Alves McConaughey, wife of actor Matthew McConaughey, holds a pair of shoes worn by one of the victims of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, during the daily news conference at the White House on June 07, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Win Mcnamee/Getty Images

McConaughey said the purpose of their trip to Washington was to meet with lawmakers and "remind and inspire them that the American people will continue to drive forward the mission of keeping our children safe -- because it's more than our right to do so, it's our responsibility to do so."

From the White House press podium, he asked for them to "find a middle ground," which he said is "the place where most of us Americans live anyway, especially on this issue."

"Because I promise you, America -- you and me -- we are not as divided as we are being told we are," he added.

McConaughey met with scores of lawmakers on Capitol Hill Monday and Tuesday as he pushes for reform -- including universal background checks, raising the minimum age to buy an AR-15-style weapon from 18 to 21, and instituting a waiting period to buy assault weapons -- measures beyond what would appear in any Senate compromise due to Republican opposition.

"These are reasonable practical tactical regulations to our nation, states, community, schools, and homes. Responsible gun owners are fed up with the Second Amendment being abused and hijacked by some deranged individuals," he added at the White House. "These regulations are not a step back. They're a step forward for a civil society and -- and the Second Amendment."

McConaughey also spoke at length about growing up in Uvalde, where he said he "learned responsible gun ownership."

"It's where my mom taught kindergarten -- less than a mile from Robb Elementary. Uvalde is where I learned to master a Daisy BB gun... took two years before I graduated to a 410 shotgun," he added. "Uvalde is where I was taught to revere the power and the capability of the tool that we call a gun."

PHOTO: Actor Matthew McConaughey speaks during a press briefing at the White House with press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, June 7, 2022, in Washington.
Actor Matthew McConaughey speaks during a press briefing at the White House with press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, June 7, 2022, in Washington.
Evan Vucci/AP

The Hollywood actor returned to Capitol Hill Tuesday for the second day in a row to meet with lawmakers as a spate of mass shootings across the country have sparked cries for change.

"Let's admit it, we can't truly be leaders if we're only living to reelection," he added at the White House briefing.

ABC News' Lalee Ibssa asked McConaughey as he was leaving a meeting with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy if he's hopeful his talks will lead to change, after McConaughey had also met earlier Tuesday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"I'm endlessly hopeful," he replied.

PHOTO: Matthew McConaughey becomes emotional as he holds up a picture of a young victim of the school shooting in Uvalde as he speaks to reporters about mass shootings in the United States during a press briefing at the White House, June 7, 2022.
Actor Matthew McConaughey, a native of Uvalde, Texas as well as a father and a gun owner, becomes emotional as he holds up a picture of a young victim of the school shooting in Uvalde as he speaks to reporters about mass shootings in the United States during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, June 7, 2022.
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Emerging from another meeting with Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the lead Republican negotiator on the gun reform talks in the Senate, McConaughey, when asked by ABC News' Trish Turner what his message was for his home state senator, only said, "That's gonna be between me and him right now."

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who was hearing from the son of the oldest victim in the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, at a Senate hearing on domestic terrorism Tuesday, tweeted a photo of his office meeting with McConaughey.

"We, like so many others, agree that gun safety reform is needed -- I'll keep working to make that happen," Durbin wrote Monday evening.

But without the support of 10 Senate Republicans, needed to join Senate Democrats to overcome the 60-vote threshold required by the Senate filibuster rule, Congress will enter another decade without having passed a major gun reform.

Just days after the mass shooting in his hometown, McConaughey visited Uvalde and posted his reaction on social media, calling for action.

"This is an epidemic we can control, and whichever side of the aisle we may stand on, we all know we can do better," he wrote on May 25, one day after the massacre. "Action must be taken so that no parent has to experience what the parents in Uvalde and the others before have endured."

PHOTO: Matthew McConaughey in Los Angeles, Dec. 12, 2021.
Matthew McConaughey in Los Angeles, Dec. 12, 2021.
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images, FILE

McConaughey also penned an op-ed in the Austin-American Statesman last month with the headline, "It's time to act on gun responsibility."

He wrote in support of universal background checks, raising the age to buy assault rifles from 18 to 21, implementing more red flags laws and instituting a national waiting period for assault rifles -- all of which he also called for from the White House press podium.

Last year, the actor turned political activist flirted with a run for governor of Texas, but announced in November that "political leadership" was a "path that I'm choosing not to take at this moment."

ABC News' Sarah Kolinovsky, Molly Nagle and Carson Blackwelder contributed to this report.

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