Matthew McConaughey has a moral obligation to enter politics.
I don’t say that lightly, mostly because I fear a free world led by Oprah or The Rock. But McConaughey has flirted with public office. And on Tuesday, while delivering a White House proxy speech on gun control, his leadership bona fides were as obvious as neon Q-Tips on black velvet.
America, our beloved neighbor to the south, has a problem with gun violence. McConaughey, a native of Uvalde, Texas, was addressing last month’s horrific mass shooting in the city after an 18-year-old with an AR-15 entered the Robb Elementary School and killed 19 children and two teachers. America, which averages more than one mass shooting per day, is trying to gaze into the cultural mirror and summon the courage for change.
This won’t be easy. It may well be impossible. While other countries, including Canada, have high rates of gun ownership, what we don’t have is a gun culture. I’ve never seen someone carrying a pistol in Toronto. I’ve seen lots of people packing heat in America where a gun is as ho-hum as underwear or shoes. There is a gun in your purse. There is a gun in your glove box. There is a gun in the nightstand. There is a gun in your holster as you dash out to 7-Eleven for milk and eggs.
There are more guns than people in America. Think about that. The country’s firearms-per-100-civilians metric is an estimated 120.5, more than double the world’s second most heavily armed country: Yemen.
America, which has roughly 5 per cent of the global population, owns more than 40 per cent of the private firearms. It’s bonkers. Can you imagine if Canada owned 40 percent of, say, the world’s Frisbees? People would be walking through the park and ducking every five seconds.
There’d be way too many Frisbees flying around our country.
But McConaughey didn’t get into the statistical weeds. And that’s why his speech was so powerful. The actor flipped the script and poignantly backed into gun control by focusing on the victims and the systemic insanity.
He talked about driving to Uvalde the day after the massacre and meeting with families. He got emotional and held up photos and talked about the shattered dreams of slaughtered children. A little girl wanted to be a marine biologist. Another wore green Converse high-tops with a heart scribbled on the right toe to symbolize her love of the environment. Another was planning to read a Biblical verse, Deuteronomy 6:5, at her next church meeting: “But she never got to read it. Service is on a Wednesday night.”
McConaughey didn’t just leave flowers or send thoughts and prayers. He and wife Camila Alves spent time with those affected by this tragedy, from grieving parents to mortuary cosmetologists tasked with trying to prepare tiny bodies devastated with ghastly exit wounds for open-casket viewings.
McConaughey didn’t just lament the senseless violence. He brought the victims back to life for 20 minutes and, in an echoing refrain, said any change in the mirror would start with, “Making the loss of these lives matter.”
In the last month, you’ve probably heard Democrats talk about banning guns. You’ve also heard Republicans talk about the constitutional right to bear arms. This is the intractable impasse. But what McConaughey, a gun owner himself, did was deftly split the difference by pointing out that common sense measures benefit both sides of this oddly polarizing issue.
“We need background checks,” he said. “We need to raise the minimum age to purchase an AR-15 rifle to 21.”
uh yeah How is it that 18-year-old in Texas can’t legally order a beer, but can buy a weapon of war? You need to pass training and testing to ride a motorcycle or pluck eyebrows in a salon setting, but you can wander into to a gun show and buy an M16 rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammo like you’re ordering McNuggets? You can’t renovate your porch without a permit, but you can stockpile firearms to mow down an entire postal code?
As McConaughey continued: “We need a waiting period for those rifles. We need red-flag laws and consequences for those who abuse them. These are reasonable, practical, tactical regulations … Responsible gun owners are fed up with the Second Amendment being abused and hijacked by some deranged individuals. These regulations are not a step back. They’re a step forward for a civil society and — and — the Second Amendment.”
Hey’s right. America will never sleepwalk away from its animating gun culture. But after the Uvalde mass murder, it can at least wake up to the possibility of reducing the carnage. An 18-year-old human does not even have a fully formed brain. Stretchlessness and impulse control are issues, just ask auto insurance companies. Why anyone, at any age, needs an AR-15 is something I will never grasp. But at least keep the killing machines away from teens.
Matthew McConaughey is a rare creature these days: a centrist. He’s neither left nor right. He goes issue by issue and lets common sense dictate his thinking. This is what America needs, now more than ever: Leaders who care about finding solutions to problems, not leaders who only care about playing footsies with their base. Leaders who can slice through the partisan rage and intellectual dishonesty, not leaders who cravenly amplify the dysfunction.
Matthew McConaughey is a gifted actor.
He could be an even better politician.
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