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Parents of Parkland shooting victim prompted former NRA chairman to give graduation speech for gun violence prevention video


A video posted online shows David Keene addressing a makeshift field in Las Vegas. Keene thought he was practicing his speech to the graduates of James Madison Academy, but in reality he was addressing 3,044 empty chairs representing students who would have graduated from high school this year if they hadn’t. not been killed, according to parents, Patricia and Manuel Oliver. .

“This year you have focused on one of the most important [James] Madison’s Amendments, the Second Amendment, ”Keene said from rows of empty chairs. “There are some who will continue to fight to gut the Second Amendment, but I would bet that many of you will be among those who stand up. and prevent them from succeeding.

“The overwhelming majority of you will go to college, while others may decide that your dream dictates a different path to success,” he added. “So my advice is pretty simple: follow your dream and make it come true. “

CNN has contacted the NRA and Keene for comment, but has yet to receive a response.

Patricia and Manuel Oliver, co-founders of gun safety organization Change the Ref, organized the fake graduation ceremony. Their son Joaquin Oliver was killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018.

They included the speech in a three-part video series titled “Lost Class,” which also featured footage of the empty chairs, audio of student 911 calls and the sound of gunfire.

Keene wasn’t the only person the organization tricked into participating in the fake graduation ceremony.

John Lott, author and gun rights activist, also addressed the audience from empty chairs. Lott’s book “More Guns, Less Crime” is often referred to as the “NRA Bible,” the video reads.

“Gun control advocates and Democrats will fight you tooth and nail,” Lott said in his background check speech. “They want to go and say ‘We have arrested 3.5 million dangerous people.’ I watch it as we arrested 3.5 million law-abiding citizens who wanted to get a gun. “

In a statement to CNN, Lott said he didn’t want his opening speech to be political or on gun control, but the event organizers asked him to do so. He also accused Change the Ref of altering his speech.

“They should make the whole video public so people can see how they deceptively edited my speech, not even taking one minute out of 15 minutes,” he told CNN.

“I have devoted years of my life to trying to prevent school shootings.” Lott said. He told CNN he had explained “how to fix the system” and “how to make it work” and how gun control advocates are battling his ideas, but he said the organization took it down. .

Lott, who traveled 1,000 miles from Montana to Las Vegas, to deliver the speech demanded that Change the Ref release the full video.

Manuel Oliver told CNN that “there was no editing.”

“They gave the speech. These are their words. They believe it,” he said.

“That’s what these guys believe and what we did was call it up and put it out there for everyone to know,” he added.

Manuel Oliver said the stunt was less about them than the students who were killed and therefore won’t graduate this year.

“They could be crazy. They could feel like fools,” he said. “Honestly, it’s not about them. It’s about the 3,044 chairs a student missed because of gun violence, and these two guys are part of the problem and they are far from part of the problem. solution.”

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