When actor Matthew McConaughey took the podium at the White House press briefing room on June 7, he was mostly composed, that is until his wife Camila held up a pair of green, high-top Chuck Taylors with a heart drawn in Sharpie on the right toe. The shoes belonged to Alithia Ramirez, 10 years old and one of the 19 students and two teachers killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24.
“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 sh…?” Here, McConaughey trailed off and his fist crashed down on the lectern.
A native son of Uvalde, McConaughey was in Washington, D.C. for meetings with President Joe Biden and lawmakers after visiting his devastated hometown with Camila to meet with townspeople and families of the deceased.
What’s happened over the past month—what’s been happening in America for far too long—is shocking. We should be ashamed, as a nation, for allowing our citizens, especially our young children, to be gunned down in what are supposed to be safe places: schools, grocery stores, churches.
McConaughey during his address talked of the responsibility and respect for firearms he learned as a young boy in Uvalde. And he spoke of the dangerous nature of laws that do not protect our families, of the mutilation that the AR-15 assault-style weapon inflicted on the children’s bodies, its bullets rendering many unidentifiable.
“Children were left not only dead, but hollow,” he said.
The speech invoked similar points made in a recent Mountain Outlaw magazine interview I had with Ryan Busse, author of the 2021 book “Gunfight,” about his 25 years working in the firearms industry and what influenced him to leave it.
“I appreciate the right to own guns,” Busse said. “My parents gave me guns as gifts. I believe that I have the right to defend myself with a gun. But those times were always balanced with responsibility. I believe a right, a freedom that important, deserves a commensurate responsibility. As my dad would say, ‘These things can take a life in an instant.’”
Minutes after the Uvalde shooting, yet another man gave his own fiery speech: Golden State Warriors basketball coach Steve Kerr. These men are calling for lawmakers in Congress to stand up, put aside partisan politics, and make commonsense reforms in the name of public safety. All three are fired up about the need for reforms, as are many staunch gun rights advocates.
We have an actor, a writer and an NBA coach weighing in on mass murders in America. We’ve seen protests across the country. People have the right to be angry when innocent children are killed, when any innocent person is killed. They should be; we all should be. The question is: Where are the lawmakers?
Joseph T. O’Connor