Tearful Matthew McConaughey speaks at White House on US mass shootings

President Joe Biden met actor, who was born in Uvalde, to discuss guns after deadly shooting in primary school

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Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey emotionally addressed media at the White House on Tuesday about the mass shooting at a primary school in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas.

"This moment is different," McConaughey said at the White House. "We are in a window of opportunity right now that we have not been in before, a window where it seems like real change."

Two teachers and 19 children were killed in a mass shooting at the Uvalde school in late May, which captured the attention of the nation and the world.

McConaughey at times choked up as he held photos of some of the young victims.

He talked about what their families shared with him and his wife Camila about their lives, and the ordeal of the shootings that day.

McConaughey spoke about Maite Yuleana Rodriguez, 10, a Robb Elementary pupil who wanted to be a marine biologist and cared about the environment.

He told those gathered that when someone announced they would be releasing balloons in Maite's honour, her mother said her daughter would see that as littering.

Camilla sat to the right of the lectern while holding a pair of green trainers with a heart drawn on the toe of one.

"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," McConaughey said.

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

"We also met a cosmetologist ... well-versed in mortuary make-up."

He said the specialist told him that many of children's bodies needed "extensive restoration" before they could be presented to family members.

"Why? Due to the exceptionally large exit wounds of an AR-15 rifle, most of the body was so mutilated that only a DNA test or green Converse could identify many children [who] were left not only dead, but hollow."

McConaughey said the parents he met in Uvalde told him that they "want secure and safe schools" and "gun laws that won't make it so easy for the bad guys to get the damn guns".

"We need to invest in mental health care," he said, listing demands from bereaving families.

"We need responsible gun ownership ... we need background checks. We need to raise the minimum age to purchase an AR-16 rifle to 21.

"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."

McConaughey urged legislators to take action, saying: "We are not as divided as we are being told we are.

“We can’t truly be leaders if we are only living for re-election."

Mr Biden gave a rare prime-time speech last week calling on Congress to pass gun reform, mentioning much of what McConaughey requested on Tuesday.

Updated: June 07, 2022, 9:38 PM