An Alaskan congressman has suggested that more Jews would have survived the Holocaust if they had been armed with guns.
Rep. Don Young made the statement during an appearance last week before the Alaska Municipal League and while answering a question about what can be done to prevent gun violence in schools.
Young, a Republican, argued that arming teachers would help keep students safe, then ticked off examples of what he says happens when governments take firearms away from citizens.
“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. “How many Jews were put in the ovens because they were unarmed?”
The audience made no visible or audible reaction to Young’s remarks, according to a video of his remarks posted to YouTube.
The video is posted on the YouTube page of Dimitri Shein, a Democratic candidate for Congress who is running against Young. Shein is also the man seen in the video questioning Young.
Shein posted the video to Twitter on Sunday and tagged several members of the media, including anchors at CNN.
Murphy McCollough, Young’s press secretary, said in a statement to CNN that the congressman’s comment at the event “has been taken entirely out of context.”
“He was referencing the fact that when Hitler confiscated firearms from Jewish Germans, those communities were less able to defend themselves,” McCollough said. “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. A defenseless people are left up to the mercy of its leaders.”
It’s not the first time that a politician has made such an argument. During the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, Ben Carson sparked controversy by saying that the Holocaust would have been less deadly had more people in Europe been armed.
“I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in October 2015 when asked whether the murder of six million Jews would have been prevented if there were no gun-control laws in Germany.
“I’m telling you there is a reason these dictatorial people take the guns first,” Carson said.
The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights organization, has long pushed back against such opinions.
“This historical second-guessing is deeply offensive to Jews, Holocaust survivors and those who valiantly fought against Hitler during World War II. It is, in fact, as many historians have previously noted, a distortion of history itself,” ADL National Director Jonathan Greenblatt wrote in an online column in 2015.
“Guns or lack of them did not cause the Holocaust. The Holocaust was the product of anti-Semitism and the moral failure and indifference of humans.”