McConaughey calls for background checks, waiting periods, & more.. but don't call it "gun control"

(Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

No, the actor and native of Uvalde, Texas wants you to think of his laundry list of proposed new laws as “gun responsibility” instead.

To his credit, Matthew McConaughey doesn’t call for an outright ban on any firearm in his USA Today op-ed, but there’s still plenty of talk of “reasonable compromises” and “commonsense solutions” in demands for a host of new gun laws that he claims will “immediately reduce the gun violence tragedies that have become too common in our country.”

McConaughey lays out four new measures he wants to see in place: universal background checks, a ban on sales of modern sporting rifles to adults under the age of 21, the establishment of “red flag” laws in all 50 states, and an undefined waiting period on all sales of semi-automatic rifles.

Integrating gun safety training, safe storage proposals, and bolstering school safety are also beneficial, but are not government-only solutions. Companies, private organizations, and responsible gun owners have a big role to play.

I want to be clear. I am not under the illusion that these policies will solve all of our problems, but if responsible solutions can stop some of these tragedies from striking another community without destroying the Second Amendment, they’re worth it.

This is not a choice between guns or no guns. It’s the responsible choice. It’s the reasonable choice. It’s a quintessentially American choice: Where I have the right to be me, you have the freedom to be you, and we have the responsibility to be US.

To find common ground on this issue, both sides are going to have to answer the call and reach for the higher ground of our collective responsibility.

Business as usual isn’t working. “That’s just how it is” cannot be an excuse. The heinous bloodshed of innocent people cannot become bearable. If we continue to just stand by, we’re living a lie. With every right there comes a duty.

For ourselves, our children, and our fellow Americans—we have a duty to be responsible gun owners. Please do yours and protect the Second Amendment through gun responsibility. It’s time for real leaders to step up and do what’s right, so we can each and all just keep livin’.

The simplest argument against McConaughey’s recommendations are that each and every one of his proposals are already law in the state of California, which, according to the FBI, had the highest number of active shooter incidents in the country last year. If he truly believes that his “reasonable” and “responsible” measures will have an immediate impact, he should at least be able to explain why they’ve failed to do so in the Golden State.

Then there’s the fact that many people don’t actually view this measures as “reasonable” at all, especially once they start to look at the fine print. Universal background checks typically poll well, as McConaughey himself noted, but when voters actually have a chance to approve them, the results aren’t anywhere close to the 80-90% support shown in public opinion polls. Maine’s voter referendum in 2016 failed to get 50% of the vote, for instance, while Nevada’s referendum that same year squeaked by with 51% of the vote. Since then Maine’s violent crime and homicide rates have continued be among the lowest in the nation, while shooting and homicides have continued to increase in Nevada, particularly around Las Vegas.

Southern Nevada’s largest law enforcement agency, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, handled 185 of last year’s killings, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Homicide Lt. Ray Spencer, in a recent interview, attributed the busiest year since he began heading the unit in 2018 to easy access to guns. He cited loaded firearms found in nightstands and cars.

“The access juveniles and criminals are able to get to firearms is concerning,” he said. “That’s probably the biggest reason on what’s driving our homicide numbers is that guns are so easily stolen and accessible.”

Criminals will find a way to illegally get ahold of guns even in states with “universal background checks” on the books, and because there’s no way to proactively enforce the law requiring private person-to-person sales to go through a federally licensed firearms dealer, these laws have little-to-no deterrent effect on preventing or reducing violent crime.

In his op-ed, McConaughey acknowledged that “the need for mental health care, school safety, the prevalence of sensationalized media coverage, and the decaying state of American values are all long-term societal factors that must be addressed,” but claimed that we “don’t have the luxury of time” to deal with those underlying issues. Why not, if they’re actually going to be more effective at preventing these types of attacks than the gun control solutions he’s offering? I’d argue it’s much more reasonable to address our mental health crisis and school security than passing gun control laws that are all too often ineffective, unconstitutional, or both.

I don’t fault McConaughey for reaching for what he believes are “reasonable” responses to the horrific murders in Uvalde, but a gun control solution to this issue only takes us further away from but both realistic and reasonable strategies to stop these kinds of killings; better enforcement of the laws on the books (including violent crimes), improving access to mental health treatment (both in-patient and out-patient options), and ensuring that our most vulnerable are protected from attack on school grounds while recognizing the right of the people to bear arms in self-defense.