In just the last decade of his lengthy tenure, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) has made quite a few bizarre and insensitive comments, saying the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was “not an environmental disaster,” using a racial slur to describe Latinos and suggesting wolves could solve homelessness, among other controversies.
Last week, Young, who is currently the longest-serving member of the House, weighed in on the national debate on firearms by suggesting the Holocaust could have been avoided if Jewish people had armed themselves.
“How many millions of people were shot and killed because they were unarmed? Fifty million in Russia, because their citizens weren’t armed,” Young said during a conference in Juneau, Alaska Public Media reported.
“How many Jews were put in the ovens because they were unarmed?” he added.
The Anti-Defamation League rejected the idea that guns could have prevented the mass murder of up to 6 million Jewish people and millions of others during World War II.
“It’s offensive for anyone to manipulate the history of the Holocaust to score political points,” the Jewish civil rights organization tweeted in response to Young’s comments, noting that the real causes of the genocide were anti-Semitism and hate.
Young’s press secretary said in a statement to CNN that the congressman’s words were misconstrued.
“He was referencing the fact that when Hitler confiscated firearms from Jewish Germans, those communities were less able to defend themselves. He was not implying that an armed Jewish population would have been able to prevent the horrors of the Holocaust, but his intended message is that disarming citizens can have detrimental consequences,” the statement read.
The ADL denounced a similar argument from a politician in 2015, when then-presidential candidate Ben Carson claimed in a section of his book, A More Perfect Union, that “Through a combination of removing guns and disseminating deceitful propaganda, the Nazis were able to carry out their evil intentions with relatively little resistance.”
Pro-gun advocates have long argued that gun control was key to the German Nazi party’s rise to power. But historians say that gun regulations were actually loosened for non-Jewish Germans, and many do not believe the limited number of personal firearms in Germany could have made an impact anyway.
Clarification: A previous version of this story used an incorrect abbreviation for Young’s congressional state affiliation of Alaska.