A former NRA president and gun rights advocate both unknowingly delivered commencement speeches at a fake high school graduation that represented thousands of children who died from gun violence before they could graduate alongside the class of 2021.
In two videos shared on Wednesday, former NRA President David Keene and author and gun rights activist John Lott are seen delivering commencement speeches to a field of empty white chairs.
The speeches were organized by the group Change the Ref, which was founded by Manuel and Patricia Oliver, whose son was killed in the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
The 3,044 chairs represent the students who did not graduate with the high school class of 2021 because they were killed by gun violence, according to a statement obtained by The Hill.
In the videos of the speeches, the speakers are seen delivering addresses to a Las Vegas-area high school named James Madison Academy, which does not exist.
One of the videos features Keene telling students to “follow your dream and make it a reality” between 911 calls of school shootings.
“Picture for a minute the young James Madison, for whom this school is named,” Keene says in his speech.
“This year, you focused on one of the most important of Madison’s amendments, the Second Amendment,” he added. “There are some who 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 and prevent them from succeeding.”
The men were told that they were delivering their speeches at a rehearsal for the graduation, BuzzFeed News reported. They were later told that the ceremony was canceled.
Lott, the author of “More Guns, Less Crime,” told the students during his speech, “Your school is named after James Madison, and he proposed what became the Second Amendment to the Constitution, that there’s an individual right for people to be able to keep guns for protection.”
“Gun control advocates and Democrats will fight you tooth and nail,” Lott said during his speech, which is also played in the Wednesday video alongside 911 calls. “They want to go and say we’ve stopped 3.5 million dangerous people. I look at it as we’ve stopped 3.5 million law-abiding citizens who wanted to get a gun.”
When reached for comment by BuzzFeed News, Lott said, “You’re telling me the whole thing was a setup?” and added that he did not know the graduation was fake. He noted that he does support background checks for individuals to be able to buy guns.
He also claimed he was encouraged by organizers to speak about Madison and background checks for weapons, BuzzFeed News reported.