Pro-gun activists tricked into addressing 3000 empty seats at fake graduation of victims of gun violence

Pro-gun activists tricked into addressing 3000 empty seats at fake graduation of victims of gun violence
The event was orchestrated by a couple whose son died in the 2018 Parkland shooting

Two famous pro-gun activists were tricked into addressing a fake graduation ceremony in Las Vegas with thousands of empty chairs that represented students who were killed by gun violence, according to a report.

Both David Keene, who was the former president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), and John Lott Jr, the author of “More Guns, Less Crime,” spoke in front of a sea of 3,044 empty chairs, representing the students who were killed in shooting incidents, reported BuzzFeed news.

The event was hosted by Change the Ref, a gun safety organisation which was founded by Manuel and Patricia Oliver, whose son Joaquin was killed in 2018 in the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.

They released the three-part series of the event on YouTube on Wednesday, calling it “The Lost Class” of students.

In the video, the drone flew past the 3,044 white empty chairs kept in the huge field as Mr Keene addressed the non-existing student while overlaid audio of young students trapped in mass shooting played in the background.

Mr Keene called on the students to fight against those who want to implement tighter gun restrictions.

“I’d be willing to bet that many of you will be among those who stand up and prevent those from proceeding,” he said on 4 June addressing the neatly arranged chairs.

“An overwhelming majority of you will go on to college, while others may decide their dream dictates a different route to success,” said Mr Keene. “My advice to you is simple enough: follow your dream and make it a reality.”

He was addressing the graduating class of James Madison Academy, a school that does not exist.

Change the Ref said in a statement: “This campaign is not about tricking a couple of NRA members, it’s about showing how thousands of empty chairs during graduations, have become a normal American tradition.”

“We are here representing every single kid that is not able to finish high school,” Mr Manuel said in the third video released on YouTube. “We have to be louder, and that means reaching more and more people.”

In the second video, guns rights activist John Lott Jr criticised the universal background checks and described his time in the Department of Justice during the Trump administration.

Mr Lott said that he was not aware that the ceremony or the school was fake and said he knew the ceremony got cancelled due to a threat of violence, reported BuzzFeed news.

“Unfortunately, the fact they lied to me many times is kind of illustrated by the way they edited and chopped up the video that’s there,” Mr Lott said. “Is that the way we want to have political debate in the country? Where people lie and creatively edit what people say?”

He said he drove for 13 hours from Montana to Vegas and said he was promised he would receive $495 for the plane ticket but he never received the money.

Mr Keene declined to comment to media outlets.

Mr Oliver told BuzzFeed he lost his son Joaquin three months before his graduation. ‘We know exactly the feeling of being there and receiving the diploma without your kid being there.

“Because we understand that, we know there are a lot of people going through that same experience right now.”

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