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Actor Matthew McConaughey took the podium at the White House on Tuesday to deliver an emotional appeal for "gun responsibility" following the massacre at an elementary school in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas.
"We are in a window of opportunity right now that we have not been in before, a window where it seems like real change, real change can happen," the 52-year-old McConaughey told reporters.
McConaughey, who visited Uvalde and met with families of the victims after 19 children and two teachers were shot dead on May 24, spoke powerfully about some of the children who died.
He displayed a colorful drawing made by Alithia Ramirez, a 10-year-old who had wanted to attend art school in Paris one day.
McConaughey also pointed out a pair of green Converse shoes held by his wife, Camila Alves, that belonged to another of the victims, Maite Rodriguez.
"Green Converse with a heart on the right toe," McConaughey said. "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?" he said, pounding the lectern in a hushed White House briefing room.
McConaughey, who met with President Joe Biden and members of Congress before addressing the White House press corps, said the families of the victims told him that they wanted to make "their loss matter."
"They want their children's dreams to live on," he said.
"We consoled so many people," he said. "And you know what they all said? 'We want secure and safe schools and we want gun laws that won't make it so easy for the bad guys to get these damn guns.'
"We need to invest in mental health care. We need safer schools," he said. "We need to restore our American values and we need responsible gun ownership.
"We need background checks," he continued. "We need to raise the minimum age to purchase an AR-15 rifle to 21."
- 'Life preservation problem' -
McConaughey, who won a best actor Oscar in 2014 for the film "Dallas Buyers Club" and has flirted with running for governor of Texas, said it should be a "nonpartisan issue."
"As divided as our country is, the gun responsibility issue is one that we agree on," he said.
"There is not a Democratic or Republican value in one single act of these shooters," he said. "Can both sides see beyond the political problem at hand and admit that we have a life preservation problem on our hands?"
Gun violence is common in America but the nationwide shock over recent mass shootings at a grocery store in Buffalo and the school in Uvalde has once again spurred calls for action.
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy has been working with a bipartisan group of senators on reform measures -- a heavy lift, with many Republicans routinely rejecting most forms of gun control.
A recent CBS News/YouGov poll found that 62 percent of Americans back a nationwide ban on semi-automatic rifles. Support is even higher for background checks on all gun buyers (81 percent).
US gun violence has killed more than 18,000 people so far in 2022, including nearly 10,300 suicides, according to the Gun Violence Archive.