U.S. gun reform: Actor McConaughey, relatives of victims urge lawmakers to act

WASHINGTON, June 7 (Reuters) – Lawmakers, shooting victims and advocates for tougher gun laws, including actor Matthew McConaughey, spoke out in Washington on Tuesday for legislation to curb shootings by mass amid signs of movement on an issue that has stalled Congress for years.

U.S. Senate Democrats said they were encouraged by ongoing talks with Republicans. The White House says President Joe Biden just wants to see some sort of legislation passed, even if a deal can’t be reached on his call to ban assault rifles, as Congress debates federal gun legislation fired after more than a decade of inaction on the issue.

The renewed push to address gun violence comes after a series of mass shootings across the country, including at a school in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two teachers were killed on May 24.

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Oscar-winning actor McConaughey, from Uvalde, met Biden at the White House and made a moving call for change from the White House podium, where he was introduced by press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre as a “weapons owner”.

“…Make the loss of these lives count,” McConaughey urged, showing photos of some of the child victims and showing the green sneakers that helped identify the body of a 10-year-old girl. Read more

“As we honor and recognize the victims, we must recognize that this time it seems like something is different,” he said. “The responsible parties in this debate seem to at least be committed to sitting down and having a real conversation on a new and improved path.”

Former Buffalo Fire Marshal Garnell Whitfield, whose mother Ruth was killed in the Tops Friendly Markets attack that left 10 black people dead, told senators they should step down if they don’t. could not act.

“We are beyond hurt. We are angry. We are mad as hell,” he said at a Capitol Hill news conference. “My mother’s life mattered. Your actions here today will tell us how much it means to you.”

Last week, in a speech from the White House declaring “Enough, enough!” Biden called on Congress to ban assault weapons, expand background checks and implement other gun control measures. Read more

However, such measures do not enjoy broad support in the Senate, which is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats broadly favor tougher gun laws, while Republicans take a broad view of constitutionally protecting the right to bear arms.

Biden met with Sen. Chris Murphy, who is leading discussions with other senators, at the White House on Tuesday.

“We still have work to do in the Senate. I’m grateful the White House is giving us the space to get a deal done,” Murphy told reporters after speaking with Biden. He said he intended to get a deal this week.

The senators are considering modest proposals, including encouraging states to pass “red flag” laws to deny guns to people deemed a risk to public safety or themselves; improving school safety and strengthening mental health services.

“Stopping gun violence takes courage,” said former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords, herself a victim of gun violence, at the opening of a temporary memorial for victims of gun violence at the National Mall on the National Mall.

“Now is the time to come together. Be responsible – Democrats, Republicans, everyone. We must never stop fighting – fight, fight, fight! Be bold, be brave,” she said.

Thousands of people have died in the United States from gun violence this year.

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Additional reporting by Nandita Bose; Written by Jeff Mason; Editing by Heather Timmons and Cynthia Osterman

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