Change the Ref/YouTube
Former NRA President David Keene was tricked into speaking to what he thought was a 2021 graduating class.
Keene was president of the NRA between 2011 and 2013 and, while he stepped down as president many years ago, the 76-year-old remains a board member of the controversial organisation.
In light of his NRA-links, he was invited to speak to James Madison Academy high school graduates, but will have now learned that the school doesn’t actually exist. The fake school was named after the US’s fourth president, who founded the Second Amendment.
Keene was filmed speaking to rows of empty chairs in what he was told was a rehearsal for the ceremony, where he called on the teenagers he thought he’d be presenting to to campaign against tighter gun laws.
Change The Ref
Speaking to the empty crowd on June 4, he said:
Picture for a minute the young James Madison, for whom this school is named. This year you focused on one of the most important of Madison’s amendments – the Second Amendment. There are some who will continue to fight to gut the Second Amendment, but I’d be willing to bet that many of you will be among those who stand up to prevent them from succeeding.
However, what Keene didn’t know was that the 3,044 empty, socially-distanced chairs in front of him represented the 3,044 children that should have been graduating from high school this year, but were killed by gun violence instead. The event was named ‘The Lost Class’.
Organisation Change The Ref organised the fake graduation to highlight the ongoing issues the US is facing in regards to gun violence. The group was created by Manuel and Patricia Oliver whose son was killed in a high school shooting in 2018, BuzzFeed News reports.
Change The Ref also invited author and gun rights activist John Lott to the ceremony.
Speaking of inviting the pair, a Change the Ref spokesperson said in a press release, ‘Ironically, had the men conducted a proper background check on the school, they would have seen that the school is fake.’
After the rehearsal was filmed, Keene was told that the event had been cancelled and wouldn’t have learnt it was a fake graduation until today, June 23, when Change The Ref’s video was released.
Speaking to BuzzFeed News, Manuel Oliver branded Keene and Lott as ‘part of the problem’. He added, ‘We need to call them out, we need to show everyone — this is how they process the logic behind the gun industry.’
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