The anti-gun universe erupted with glee last month when a video emerged showing former National Rifle Association (NRA) President Davide Keene and former Department of Justice advisor John Lott speaking to 3,044 empty seats during a fake graduation ceremony as part of a stunt orchestrated by a gun-control group.
Lott, who has published a variety of studies and books poking holes in the gun-control agenda, has taken to media outlets and the Crime Prevention Research Center website to argue that his comments about background checks were taken wildly out of context.
The anti-gun organization Change the Ref hatched the elaborate plan to get Keene and Lott to talk about gun rights to empty chairs that supposedly represent all the students who did not graduate this year because they were killed by “gun violence.” Their speeches are heavily edited, and Lott says his comments were misrepresented.
The video implies that Lott voiced opposition to background checks on gun purchases.
“They want to go and say we’ve stopped three-and-a-half million dangerous people,” Lott says in the video. “I look at as, we’ve stopped three-and-a-half million law-abiding citizens who wanted to get a gun.”
In reality, Lott says, he advocated for fixing the background check system so that fewer law-abiding Americans have their checks denied.
“Of the 3.5 million initial denials (from purchasing firearms) due to background checks, more than 99 percent of those are false positives,” Lott told the Las-Vegas Review-Journal. “What we should do is require the federal government meets the same standard of quality in background checks that private companies do.”
Lott’s organization, the Crime Prevention Research Center, also pointed out that Change the Ref wildly inflated the number of “graduating seniors” who died of “gun violence” this year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 548 17-year-olds died in 2019 from homicides, suicides, and accidental deaths involving guns. If the data is expanded to include everyone under 18, the number goes up to 1,638—a far cry from the 3,044 students Change the Ref claims.
Lott said he was tricked into giving the address by someone named “Jordan Simon,” who said James Madison Academy needed a keynote speaker for its graduation ceremony. The private academy was fake, but Change the Ref developed a now-deleted website that Lott says appeared to be real.
Simon said they wanted him to speak about “the importance of the individual liberties given to us in our ‘Bill of Rights’ — especially the 2nd Amendment.” Lott was initially hesitant to bring politics into a commencement address, but they insisted he talk about background checks.
Lott flew out to Las Vegas under the pretense of giving a dress rehearsal for the speech. After he had given the address, Simon stopped answering his calls and texts.