Rep. Don Young (R-AK) seriously thinks that the Holocaust happened because Jewish people were unarmed.
At an Alaska Municipal League (AML) meeting in Juneau last Thursday, Young was asked what should be done to prevent school shootings.
“What can municipalities do? What can the federal government do to stop the massacre of children in our schools?” asked Dimitri Shein, a Democratic candidate running for Young’s seat.
Young responded by arguing that teachers should be armed. He then invoked the Holocaust to argue that making sure everyone had guns was the best solution.
“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 into the ovens because they were unarmed?”
The comment is anti-Semitic, outrageous, and incredibly stupid, but just in case you need a debunking: That is not why or how the Holocaust happened.
The Nazi gun control theory is a tired, ahistorical refrain from conservatives. Former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson also argued that gun control laws let the Holocaust to happen in his book A More Perfect Union — and at least twice more on the campaign trail. Congress has invited people who make this argument to speak about the dangers of gun control. Fox News, Alex Jones’ conspiracy website InfoWars, and the National Rifle Association (NRA) have all invoked the Holocaust to argue against gun control.
You don’t need to know about gun control in 1930s Germany to know that this argument isn’t true. Adolf Hilter managed to fight entire armies across Europe; Jewish civilians — who at the time made up less than 1 percent of the German population — having more guns wouldn’t have stopped the Holocaust. Holocaust scholars, Jewish groups, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum have all repeatedly called for Nazi analogies to stay out of the gun control debate. No serious scholarship of the Holocaust points to the lack of guns as a serious factor.
The argument also overlooks the fact that there was armed resistance. Take a look at the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943, as just one example. Following massive deportations to forced-labor camps and killing centers, people in the ghetto organized and resisted with pistols, grenades, and automatic weapons and rifles. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has an entire page dedicated to other examples of armed resistance to the Holocaust, detailing uprisings in Vilna, Bialystok, and other ghettos. German troops still crushed the uprisings and sent their residents to camps. There was also armed resistance from Jewish partisans, who created their own units after escaping the camps.
Blaming the Holocaust on the lack of guns also allows people to ignore Nazism and anti-Semitism — both of which seem to be on the rise in the United States today.
Arming teachers to prevent school shootings is a common NRA talking point. More guns in schools lead to more accidents, put students of color in particular at greater risk, and don’t actually prevent most shootings from taking place. There was also an armed officer at the scene of the Parkland shooting earlier this month that left 17 people dead.