In late May, a mass shooting in which 19 children and two teachers were murdered happened in Uvalde, Texas. There have been over 200 mass shootings since the beginning of 2022. It’s imperative that Congress, and politicians, work to prevent another senseless act of violence against innocent kids — be it through an overhaul of gun control laws, or even creative solutions like taxing AR-15s so high they become unaffordable to most people. There is plenty that can be done.
And one of the loudest advocates for change is Matthew McConaughey, who grew up in the Uvalde and yesterday, gave an intense press conference on June 7th at the White House demanding change.
Not only is McConaughey a Uvalde native, but his mom was also a teacher in Uvalde, though a different one than Robb Elementary School where the shooting happened. And since the May shooting, Matthew and his wife, Camilla Alves, have been in the community, hearing the stories of those who lost their lives.
“Camila and I came here to share my stories from my hometown of Uvalde,” Matthew said in the conference. “I came here to take meetings with elected officials on both sides of the aisle. We came here to speak to them, to speak with them, and to urge them to speak with each other — to 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.”
Matthew met with many people from the community when he and his family arrived to offer support. He spoke with funeral directors, counselors, community mentors, and several parents of the children who lost their lives. And he made it a point at the conference to speak about the victims and their lives.
“We met two of the grieving parents, Ryan and Jessica Ramirez,” the actor said. “Their 10-year-old daughter, Alithia -- she was one of the 19 children that were killed...” He held up a piece of artwork Alithia had created. “Ryan and Jessica were eager to share Alithia’s art with us and said if we could share it, then somehow maybe that would make Alithia smile in heaven. They told us that showing someone else Alithia’s art would in some way keep her alive.”
He then spoke about 9-year-old Maite Rodriguez who was full of passion and life and wanted to be a marine biologist when she grew up. “Maite wore green high-top Converse with a heart she had hand-drawn on the right toe because they represented her love of nature,” he said, before asking Camila to hold up the shoes.
Can you show these shoes, please? Wore these every day. Green Converse with a heart on the right toe. 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?
His speech continued, talking about 10-year-old Ellie Garcia, who loved to dance and help others. And he spoke about Irma Garcia, one of the teachers who died at the shooting. Then, Matthew shared a little about some of the other community members who have been working to allow parents to peacefully honor their children who have died.
“We also met a cosmetologist,” he said. “She 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.” But the process was different for the children.
“These bodies were very different. They needed much more than makeup to be presentable,” Matthew explained. “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.”
The speech was about 20 minutes long and his graphic and sometimes blunt words cut through the noise, and obfuscations, that have been circling around enacting gun control measures in the wake of yet another mass-death event. He called for significant change — for politicians to reach across the aisle in order to do so.
We got to take a sober, humble, and honest look in the mirror and rebrand ourselves based on what we truly value.
“We got to get some real courage and honor our immortal obligations instead of our party affiliations... We got to look in the mirror, lead with humility, and acknowledge the values that are inherent to but also above politics. We’ve got to make choices, make stands, embrace new ideas, and preserve the traditions that can create true — true progress for the next generation.”