Why a gun control campaign is driving buses to Ted Cruz’s office

Follow-up campaign to Change the Ref's 'The Lost Class' takes items from children killed by gun violence to NRA-supported politicians

Published On
Jul 14, 2022

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A mile-long fleet of yellow buses is driving through Houston today, but rather than school-bound children, the 52 buses’ seats are void of life. Together, the 4,368 bus seats represent children who have died due to gun violence in the U.S. since 2020.

“The NRA Children’s Museum” is the latest campaign from Change the Ref, whose award-winning “The Lost Class” campaign in which NRA officials gave commencement speeches to an audience of empty chairs became a viral image in America’s gun control conversation last year.


The bus convoy of “The NRA Children’s Museum” are en route to the offices of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, the leading recipient of gun lobbyist funding according to Open Secrets. The lead vehicle will carry photos, videos, audio recordings and personal memories—such as a Girl Scout sash and a Nickelodeon branded backpack—from the children who have lost their lives to gun violence since 2020. Over the past two years, the CDC reports that firearms have surpassed auto accidents as the leading cause of death for children in America.

“To commemorate this horrific historic moment, we are showing American voters the toll these politicians have taken on our children's lives with this all-too-real archive,” said Manuel Oliver, co-founder of Change the Ref, in a statement. “And this is only the beginning. We will not stop with Sen. Ted Cruz. To every politician who has stood by, taken NRA money, and refused to listen to the people they represent: the museum is on the way to honor you next.”


Oliver founded Change the Ref with his wife, Patricia, to honor their son Joaquin, one of the 17 victims in the 2018 Parkland, Florida, massacre. The parents plan to present Cruz with a letter written by their son before his death asking for background checks on gun sales.

The campaign marks the launch of Change the Ref’s “Yellow Bus Project,” which will raise public awareness of politicians who receive funding from gun lobbying organizations. The project will encourage American children to raise their voices for stricter gun laws and point viewers to a petition demanding universal background checks with the purchase of a firearm.

Resources, including a list of senators who receive NRA funding, are available on the campaign’s website. Change the Ref’s “The NRA Children’s Museum” campaign was created with creative partners Hungry Man, Tusk Strategies and Ogilvy, among others.

Bryan Buckley, co-founder of Hungry Man and co-creator of “The NRA Children’s Museum” with Oliver, called Cruz “nothing more than a puppet for the NRA,” discussing the funds he receives from the association. “Our children die every day for this. We can’t tolerate this anymore,” Buckley said. “We work in unconventional ways to bring meaningful gun reform. We will continue to do so until there is change. And trust me, this latest effort won’t just stop at Ted Cruz’s door in Houston.”