Matthew McConaughey makes emotional plea for gun control at White House

'Her dream was to go to art school in Paris and one day share her art with the world... they told us that showing someone else Alithia's art would in some way keep her alive,' Matthew McConaughey said.

Hollywood actor Matthew McConaughey called for politicians to “reach a higher ground” as he recounted personal stories of victims from the mass shooting in his Texas hometown of Uvalde.

In a highly personal 22-minute speech given at the White House, McConaughey urged a gridlocked Congress to pass gun reforms that can save lives without infringing on Second Amendment rights.

McConaughey said he and his wife drove back to Uvalde on the day after the shooting and spent time with the families of some of the victims and others directly impacted by the rampage.

He said every parent he spoke to expressed that “they want their children’s dreams to live on.”

“They want to make their loss of life matter,” McConaughey said.

He relayed the personal stories of a number of the victims.

He held up artwork from Alithia Ramirez, who dreamed of attending art school in Paris.

He told the story of Maite Rodriguez, an aspiring marine biologist, while McConaughey's wife Camila, sitting nearby, held the green Converse shoes Maite regularly wore. She had drawn a heart on the right toe to represent her love for nature.

Camila Alves McConaughey holds the lime green Converse tennis shoes that were worn by Uvalde shooting victim Maite Yuleana Rodriguez. Credit: AP

And then there was Eliahna “Ellie” Garcia, 10, who loved dancing and church and already knew how to drive tractors.

Ellie was looking forward to reading a Bible verse at an upcoming church service when she was killed.

McConaughey acknowledged that gun legislation would not end mass shootings but suggested that steps can be taken to lessen the chances of such tragedies happening so frequently.

"We need to invest in mental healthcare. We need safer schools. We need to restrain sensationalised media coverage. We need to restore our family values.

"We need to restore our American values and we need responsible gun ownership,” McConaughey said. "Is this a cure all? Hell no, but people are hurting."

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McConaughey, a gun owner himself, specifically called on Congress to bolster background checks for gun purchases and raise the minimum age to purchase an AR-15 style rifle to 21 from 18.

“We want secure and safe schools and we want gun laws that won’t make it so easy for the bad guys to get the damn guns,” McConaughey said.

McConaughey, who declined to take questions, spoke of his own connections to the town. He said his mother taught kindergarten (the equivalent of nursey) less than a mile from Uvalde’s Robb Elementary School, the site of the May 24 school shooting.

He also noted that Uvalde was the place where he was taught about responsibilities that come with gun ownership.

“Uvalde is where I was taught to revere the power and the capability of the tool that we call a gun. Uvalde is where I learned responsible gun ownership,” he said.