Matthew McConaughey: There's a difference between gun control and gun responsibility

I am a father, the son of a kindergarten teacher, and an American. I was also born in Uvalde, Texas.

That’s why I’m writing this.

I believe that responsible, law-abiding Americans have a Second Amendment right, enshrined by our Founders, to bear arms. I also believe we have a cultural obligation to take steps toward slowing down the senseless killing of our children. The debate about gun control has delivered nothing but status quo. It’s time we talk about gun responsibility.

There is a difference between control and responsibility. The first is a mandate that can infringe on our right; the second is a duty that will preserve it. There is no constitutional barrier to gun responsibility. Keeping firearms out of the hands of dangerous people is not only the responsible thing to do, it is also the best way to protect the Second Amendment. We can do both.

Actor Matthew McConaughey
Actor Matthew McConaughey

Depraved acts of violence, with guns as the weapon of choice, are ripping apart families, tearing at people’s faith and shredding the fabric of our society. We have an epidemic of indiscriminate mass shootings, of parents burying their children, of inaction, and buck-passing. Saving the unnecessary loss of lives is not a partisan issue.

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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 right now, we don’t have the luxury of time. We need to focus on corrections and countermeasures that can also and immediately reduce the gun violence tragedies that have become too common in our country.

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Restoring responsible gun ownership

We need to make the lost lives matter. Our leaders must make bipartisan compromises on a few reasonable measures to restore responsible gun ownership in our country.

Why do mass shootings keep happening? Because this is what we've allowed America to become.

I believe:

►All gun purchases should require a background check. Eighty-eight percent of Americans support this, including a lot of responsible gun-owning Texans. … I’ve met them. Dylann Roof, who killed nine people in a Black church in South Carolina in 2015, got his pistol without a completed background check due to a legal technicality. The system failed. Gun control activists call this a loophole. I call it incompetence.

►Unless you are in the military, you should be 21 years old to purchase an assault rifle. I’m not talking about 12-gauge shotguns or lever-action hunting rifles. I’m talking about the weapon of choice for mass murderers, AR-15-style rifles. The killer in my hometown of Uvalde purchased two of these semi-automatic rifles just after his 18th birthday, just days before he killed 19 students and two teachers. He obeyed the law. Had the law been different, perhaps I wouldn’t be writing this today.

►"Red flag" laws should be the law of the land. These measures, which are already in effect in 19 states and Washington, D.C., empower loved ones or law enforcement to petition courts to temporarily prevent individuals who could be a threat to themselves or others from purchasing or accessing firearms. These laws must respect due process, judicial review and hold account individuals who might abuse such laws.

►We need to institute a national waiting period for assault rifles. Individuals often purchase weapons in a fit of rage, harming themselves or others. Studies show that mandatory waiting periods reduced homicides by 17%. Gun suicides account for the majority of U.S. gun deaths. A waiting period to purchase an assault rifle is an acceptable sacrifice for responsible gun owners when it can prevent a mass shooting crime of passion or suicide.

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

Not a choice between guns or no guns

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.

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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’.

Matthew McConaughey is a native of Uvalde, an Austin resident, founder of the just keep livin Foundation, and a father of three. He wrote this for the USA TODAY Network's Austin American-Statesman.

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This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Matthew McConaughey: Time for responsible choices on guns