WASHINGTON — Alaska Rep. Don Young isn't bothered that some people were offended by his remarks invoking the Holocaust in support of gun rights, and said this week that he remains firm in his belief that the problem behind mass shootings isn't guns, but people.
"I'm sticking by my guns. That's what I believe and I'm happy with what I'm doing," Young said in an interview. It is far from the first time Young's statements have caused controversy.
Last week, at a Juneau event, Young responded to an audience question from a congressional opponent, Democrat Dimitri Shein, by asking, ""How many Jews were put in the ovens because they were unarmed?"
Young later said that he did not know who Shein was.
The congressman shook off pressures from President Donald Trump to take some gun control action in response to the recent murder of 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
"The Congress is the only one that can act — not the president. I wish people would get that through their heads," Young said. The news media "has made him the king. The general public doesn't understand he's not the king," Young said of Trump.
Young said he's not in favor of raising the age that someone must be to purchase a gun, or limiting the types of weapons available.
"But I still think we're not addressing the problems of our society. … I used to repair guns in my classroom and take them outside and shoot them. No one got shot," he said.
Young pointed to violent video games and a breakdown in the family. "Maybe we ought to spend a little more time. Maybe we ought to cut out the cellphones and the games," he said.
There's a role for the government, he said, but not federal action — through the schools and local police departments. Young has previously said he favors teachers carrying guns.
In his office in Washington, three guns are mounted just above the congressman's desk, in an office well known for being decorated with dozens of animal heads.
"The one was my seal gun," he said pointing to one of them Thursday. "This ought to read well: They used to pay us to shoot seals. And that … killed about 1,500 seals." The other is an old trapping gun and another is a musket, he said. "I've shot that once. I won't do it again."
Young said he has no interest in any argument that leads to taking his guns away from him.
"This is nothing about saving the kids. This is about taking the weapons away from the people," Young said.