Bellesiles Gunned Down


Alfred A. Knopf, publishers of the discredited book Arming America by Michael Bellesiles, finally announces that it intends to stop selling the tome. The disgraced book used falsified evidence to argue that Americans have historically never really liked or used guns very much. Joyce Malcolm, the gun scholar who was one of the first to sound the alarm on Bellesiles in this review in the January 2001 issue of Reason, will provide the definitive account of the whole Bellesiles mess and how rigorous historical inquiry proved him wrong—in many cases, clearly deliberately so—in a feature forthcoming in the March issue of Reason.


NEXT: Robin Byrd's America

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Pardon me for channeling Anne Coulter; but can you imagine if someone would have written a book from the “opposite” viewpoint?

    In other words, what would happen if a conservative and/or Libertarian made up statistics promoting gun use?

    The media & academia would have him (or her), um, shot at dawn.

  2. I dunno, they certainly gave Coulter a pass on the large number of phony references in her latest book.

  3. What tempest in a teacup. Bellesisles only sold 24,000 books. That’s a drop in the bucket, even for boring old “historical” tomes.


  4. The point isn’t how many copies of the damn thing was being sold. The point is that it was being held up by anti-gun activists as definitive “proof” that the founders didn’t mean the second amendement to convey an indiviudual right to own guns. The lies Bellesiles published as academic fact shouldn’t go unanswered.

  5. Which leads to another point, Mark: Coulter is known as a “tele-bimbo” (among other things) and is not taken seriously as a scholar.

    Bellesiles was.

  6. Coulter is known by a few idiotarians as a “right-wing telebimbo”. That notwithstanding, as far as her being “not taken seriously as a scholar”, Doctor Coulter seems to be taken seriously by quite a lot of people on the right side of the Bell curve. Check her bio. Go ahead and check her book’s references while you’re at it.

    And yes, Bellesiles was, at one time, taken seriously as a scholar. Sad that.

  7. Regarding John M.’s comment “In other words, what would happen if a conservative and/or Libertarian made up statistics promoting gun use?” I think the answer is “Nothing, since the media would never pay attention to anything promoting gun use in the first place”!

    And while Bellesiles may not have sold many copies (I own one, incidentally), I think the significance of the thing should not be underestimated. How often is it that an academic is forced to resign his position, his award is revoked by another university, and his publisher announces they’re not going to publish his book any more? Professionally, Bellesiles is destroyed.

  8. “Go ahead and check her [Coulter’s] book’s references while you’re at it.”

    Yes, do that. Seriously. And I don’t mean just flip to the back of the book and thumb through them, I mean actually go to the “sources” she lists. You’ll run into some serious howlers on the VERY FIRST PAGE. That book sets new standards for intellectual dishonesty and general buffoonery.

  9. Somewhat offtopic (what? No, never!), but all I needed to know about Ann Coulter was revealed in the flap liner copy of her book Slander.

    Paraphrasing somewhat, but “There has been a cheapening of discourse and a breakdown in bipartisanship in America — and it’s the fault of the liberals.”

    That kind of illogical statement makes my head hurt.

    And JD Weiner nailed it on the gun media thing.

  10. As for the debate on the meaning of the 2nd amendment; the present participle “A well-regulated militia, being neccessary for the security of a free state” is incidental, not conditional, to “the right of the people to keep and bear arms”. As someone once pointed out (name escapes me presently) that the 2nd amendment is identical in structure and usage to the sentence: “A well-educated electorate, being neccessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and read books, shall not be infringed”. Even if the first half of the sentence were proven to be contraversial, outdated or completely untrue, the right protected by the sentence would be unrestricted…the right is unrestricted by the whole sentence. The right to keep and bear arms is an individual right.

  11. You can say what you like about Coulter but her kind wouldn’t exist without feeding on the hypocricy of a media establishment so biased it embraces a Bellisiles because his lies support views they want to impose. If Michael Moore is out there ranting then Ann Coulter’s book sales will go up with mathmatically predictable precision.

    Leftist Intellectual dishonesty is a tool to advance controlling agendas like gun control, like land use controls, like tobacco use control, like financial control.

    Point out their lies and you get crucified:

    So let Coulter be the lightning rod and throw mud right back at ’em…

  12. Doctor Coulter?? Since when does a J.D. get to go by “Doctor?” Dr. Johnny Cochran? It’s even borderline gauche for PhDs go go by “Doctor,” and they have a lot more of a historical claim to the title than every third rate shyster out chasing ambulances.

  13. Social Federalists Unite!

  14. Interesting thing about the Bill of Rights: Many will advance absolutist arguments about one article while downplaying the importance of another, ie. liberals tend to be first amendment absolutists but don’t care about the second, while conservatives love the second, but wouldn’t have any problem severely curtailing the first (or the fourth, for that matter). I’m obviously simplifying (ie. some liberals advocate speech codes and some conservatives do value privacy rights and free speech, etc.), but my point is that most people who use to Bill of Rights don’t actually care about constitutional law per se. They’re just using it as a convenient prop for their pet arguments.

  15. Which is why, BZ, I term my self an old-style “Federalist”… Heh…

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.