The former NRA leader was duped into delivering a commencement address to empty chairs representing deceased students.
Change the Ref, a gun safety organization, duped former NRA President David Keene into delivering a graduation speech to 3,044 empty chairs, which the organization claims represent high school students who will not graduate this year due to gun violence.
Keene delivered his remarks to “The Lost Class” in Las Vegas, Nevada, believing he was rehearsing to address the graduating class of James Madison Academy, which does not exist. The event’s video begins with Keene delivering his address from behind a podium while dressed in his graduation gown.
“While some will fight to repeal the Second Amendment, I’m willing to bet that many of you will rise up and prevent them from succeeding,” he says.
As Keene continues, the camera pulls back to reveal thousands of eye-catching white chairs that seem to go on indefinitely. Then, chilling 911 recordings from the 2018 Stoneman Douglas school shooting in Parkland, Fla., begin to play. The shooting killed 17, including the son of Change the Ref founders Manuel and Patricia Oliver.
“While the vast majority of you will continue on to college, others may determine that their dream requires a different path to success,” Keene says.
The video continues by interspersing Keen’s speech with audio of terrified students, parents, and a 911 operator attempting to make sense of what was happening at Stoneman Douglas three years ago on Valentine’s Day.
“So my advice to you is straightforward: pursue your dreams and see them through,” Keene continues in his speech. “And never doubt for a moment that you can accomplish your goal. Many thanks.”
The screen then goes black and the words “He will never receive these students’ ovation” appear in white lettering, followed by the sound of gunshots. Finally, the Change the Refer video encourages viewers to sign a petition in support of universal background checks.
Change the Ref pulled the same stunt with John Lott Jr., the author of “More Guns, Less Crime” and a former official in the Trump administration’s Department of Justice. He described the stunt as “outrageous” and told NBC News that he traveled 1,000 miles to deliver his speech in the mistaken belief that he was assisting schoolchildren.
Every Town for Gun Safety, a non-profit organization, discovered that over 3,000 Americans under the age of 20 are killed each year by gunfire.