If the name David Keene rings a bell that’s because he’s the former president of the NRA. He’s one of those guys in the photos with suspected Russian NRA operative Maria Butina. He and his wife seemed to want to get into the Russian jet fuel business back in 2017. Seriously. Keene is no longer the president of the pro high school shooting gun club, but he remains a board member—even through all of the downs and downs and downs the NRA has suffered the last few years. Knowing where the bodies are buried probably helps. John Lott is also a name you might remember as the “academic” researcher who proved that more guns made society safer, but was humiliated when no one could replicate his findings and it was revealed that he was using anonymous accounts to write opinion pieces praising himself as an important scholar.
On June 4, both Keene and Lott gave speeches to the James Madison Academy 2021 graduating class in a Las Vegas stadium. The audience was made up of 3,044 empty folding chairs. According to BuzzFeedNews, Keene told the empty space to fight restrictive gun laws and to “follow your dream and make it a reality." Lott spoke about background checks. What Keene doesn’t seem to have realized is that the 3,044 empty chairs he was addressing represented an estimated 3,044 children that would not be graduating this year as a result of gun violence. James Madison Academy is not an actual school.
Change the Ref is an organization started by Manuel and Patricia Oliver, whose son Joaquin “Guac” was killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018. The organization is focused on using art and empowering young people in their activism. According to BuzzFeed, on Wednesday, the organization released videos of David Keene and John Lott speaking to the 3,044 empty seats. Lott and Keene had no idea that the entire graduation had been a set up. In a press release Change the Ref said "Ironically, had the men conducted a proper background check on the school, they would have seen that the school is fake.”
Lott says the trick played on him and Keene shows a lack of good faith on the part of gun safety advocates. "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. Is that the way we want to have political debate in the country? Where people lie and creatively edit what people say?" This coming from a man, who you can see below, is filled with deceitful actions showing a lack of faith in humanity so acute it makes you wonder about his true beliefs in anything.
Manuel Oliver told BuzzFeed that "We lost Joaquin three months before his graduation. We know exactly the feeling of being there and receiving the diploma without your kid being there.” It’s not a response that people like Lott or Keene like to talk about because they don’t make money and put their heads onto pillows at night thinking about the gun violence they promote with their political positions.
Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, a gun violence group looking for “reasonable solutions to address our nation’s culture of gun violence,” tweeted out a reminder of the time Dr. Lott got called out for being something of a sham.
And here’s a reminder of Joaquin “Guac” Oliver, gone too soon.