House Republican connects gun control, Nazi Holocaust

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, speaks on Capitol Hill on Jan. 26, 2015.
Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, speaks on Capitol Hill on Jan. 26, 2015.

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) has an unfortunate track record of making cringe-worthy comments. The most striking example that comes to mind was a story from four years ago when the Republican congressman spoke at an Alaskan high school, less than a week after a student had committed suicide.

Young proceeded to use "salty language," told a story "that involved flying to Paris to get drunk," compared marriage equality to "bull sex," and said the boy who committed suicide must have lacked support from his friends and family. Asked to explain himself after the appearance, the GOP lawmaker added that welfare may have also led to the student's death.

But as offensive as that was, Young may have topped himself.

Jewish people would have been able to fend off the Nazis if not for gun-control laws imposed by the Third Reich, Rep. Don Young, a Republican from Alaska, argued last week."How many millions were shot and killed because they were unarmed?" Young asked at an event in Juneau, Alaska, before answering his own question. "Fifty million in Russia because their citizens were unarmed. How many Jews were put into the ovens because they were unarmed?"

If this seems at all familiar, it's probably because Young isn't the first Republican to suggest gun control contributed to the Nazi Holocaust. During his presidential campaign in 2015, Ben Carson argued, "]T]he likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed."

Jonathan Greenblatt, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, explained at the time that Carson "has a right to his views on gun control, but the notion that Hitler's gun-control policy contributed to the Holocaust is historically inaccurate." Greenblatt added that "gun control did not cause the Holocaust."

This isn't especially complicated: the Nazis had a vast war machine. To believe Jews in Europe could've prevented the Holocaust with pistols and hunting rifles is madness.

Indeed, this whole idea that an armed populace is a free populace is belied by reality. Plenty of modern democracies, for example, have created all kinds of restrictions on consumer access to firearms, and none of them have slipped into dictatorial dystopias.

Iraq under Saddam Hussein's rule, on the other hand, had one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world -- but it didn't stop Iraqis from living under tyranny.

I understand that many Republicans oppose new gun reforms, but perhaps they can leave the Holocaust out of their talking points?

Postscript: In response to the controversy over his remarks, Don Young's office issued a written statement that said, "He was not implying that an armed Jewish population would have been able to prevent the horrors of the Holocaust." One sentence later, that same statement added, "A defenseless people are left up to the mercy of its leaders."