At the Alaska Municipal League meeting in Juneau on Feb. 22, I posed a question to Alaska Congressman Don Young about school safety, mass shootings at schools and what government can do to keep students safe. I was prompted to ask this question as earlier in the week my daughter’s school (Romig Middle School in Anchorage) was on lockdown due to a gun-related issue. Young proceeded to claim that a lack of guns was the reason that “Jews were put into the ovens” during the Holocaust and that millions of Russians would have been spared if only they had guns. Young has issued a statement saying his comments were taken out of context. I disagree, using victims of the Holocaust and victims of genocides in Russia to deflect criticism of inaction on the issue of mass shootings is a new low for Alaska’s Congressman.
I am a responsible gun owner who thinks government has a responsibility to protect our children and take steps to prevent mass shootings. These violent incidents across our nation are a very serious problem. Students in our schools are afraid for their safety and cannot focus on their studies. Young has been in Congress since 1973, and during this time period the country has seen 17 mass school shootings. Young is blaming mass shootings on video games and breakdown of family structure. Though he states that something happened to the family structure that needs to be looked at, he voted for the Dickey Amendment, which prohibits the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from studying gun violence. Instead, Young’s proposed solution to our national crisis of mass shootings is to arm our teachers, disregarding the fact that teachers do not want to be armed and that there is zero evidence to suggest that an armed teacher could prevent a school shooting.
Young has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the gun lobby and is using their standard talking points of genocides in Russia and Europe to distort the truth and draw parallels that are false. I am an immigrant from Russia, and the parallel that I see emerging in our government that is similar to Russia is the prevalence of politicians who have been influenced by money and no longer serve the interests of the people who they have been elected to represent. Problems like mass shootings, our collapsing health care system and the rising national debt go on unsolved while the special interest groups continue to fund politicians who do their bidding. This is the greatest threat to our democracy.
• Dimitri Shein is a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives.