A gun violence prevention group organized and released a series of videos, showing two prominent pro-gun figures giving commencement speeches to a field of 3,044 empty chairs, representing gun violence victims.
Change the Ref, a gun violence prevention group, invited two pro-gun public speakers, including former National Rifle Association president David Keene, to address over 3,000 empty chairs, each one representing the seniors of the high school class of 2021, who couldn’t graduate because they were killed by guns.
The organization set up the stage and the empty chairs at the fake James Madison Academy earlier this month, where ex-NRA president, Keene, gave his commencement speech in a graduating cap and gown to a sea of empty chairs, during what he was told was a rehearsal.
Change the Ref released the videos on the 23rd of June.
In the short but brilliant video series called “The Lost Class,” we see David Keene asking the graduating students to uphold the second amendment that Madison – the fake academy’s namesake – is credited with writing.
As Keene is giving his speech, camera shots span over 3,044 empty chairs, overlaid by haunting 911 calls from children and students reporting gun violence instances, where we can hear terrified voices of trapped students in schools as shots are being fired around them, with no way out.
Change the Ref was founded by Patricia and Manuel Oliver, whose son Joaquin was one of 17 people murdered in the Parkland school shooting in 2018. They have called on state and federal lawmakers to put restrictions on gun ownership.
In the third and last video from the series, Manuel and Patricia explain why they organized such an event.
“We’re here today, to make a change to the regulations of gun violence,” said Patricia.
In an attempt to commemorate all the children who couldn’t graduate high school because of shootings, they created a graduation for The Lost Class.
“We’re talking about losing your son or daughter. I cannot find anything more painful in life than that,” Manuel said.
In a statement released to multiple media outlets, Change the Ref said: “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.”
As part of their campaign, Change the Ref asks to sign the lost class petition in favor of universal background checks.