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By Geoff Metcalf

August 25, 2002

The Washington Times recently ran a piece about "Emory continues probe of 'Arming America' author, Michael Bellesiles Duh!?!? This has been going on for over two flipping years!

Notwithstanding his once upon a time reputation as a "respected scholar" Emory University historian Michael Bellesiles thesis of early American gun ownership was, is, and will always been fiction.

Bellesiles claims that American colonists did not, by and large, own or value firearms. Oh really?

I interviewed Dr. Joyce Malcolm, a professor and historian, in December of 2000 and she wasn't convinced. In her critique of Bellesiles' work in Reason Magazine, Malcolm took on his research methods, conclusions and use of selective information.

Note: You can read the entire interview at Remember it is almost two years old.

Subsequent to the Malcolm interview I spoke with Clayton Cramer, another 2nd Amendment author and historian. That interview was in May of 2001. Cramer claims Bellesiles didn't just cherry pick facts to support his fiction, but that he flat out made up stuff.

Note: You can read that entire interview at

Emory University has Bellesiles on "paid leave from his teaching duties". Their six-month investigation is continuing. Apparently when it comes to "truth, justice and the American way" Emory moves at ponderous glacial speed.

Reluctantly Emory was forced to begin its investigation of "Arming America" after critics exposed chronic extensive errors and apparent flat out made up stuff in the book.

In the fall of 2000 "Arming America" was received with enthusiastic endorsements. Reviewers showered kudos and called it "exciting" and "valuable." Bleeding heart liberal left wing wackos were salivating over new "proof" of a non-existent gun culture.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, Bellesiles claimed that, private gun ownership was rare in early America. Is that why the first three battles of the War for Independence were fought over gun control? That historic dust up on the Green in Lexington Massachusetts WAS a direct result of the British attempt to confiscate powder and ball.

The anti-gun/Gun control advocates attributed Bellesiles with "demolishing the myth" of Second Amendment rights to individual ownership of firearms. The book even won the prestigious Bancroft Award last year despite the protests of Malcolm and others.

By the by….even left wing liberal icon and Harvard Law Professor, Laurence Tribe has conceded the Second Amendment IS an individual and not a "collective" right.

Cramer and Northwest University law professor James Lindgren - began to document errors in "Arming America." LOTS of errors…Gross errors, egregious errors…and fictions…….

Scholars especially damned the misrepresentation of 18th- and 19th-century probate records, which 'Mike' claimed proved that guns were rare in America's early days. Lindgren, Cramer and others suggested Bellesiles had fabricated some sources out of whole cloths. They specifically note that he cited California records that had been destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Whoops!

History professor Randolph Roth at Ohio State University wrote that the conclusions of "Arming America" were "not supported by the sources Mr. Bellesiles cites, the sources he does not cite, or by the data he presents." Which is a very politic academic euphemism for "…he lied."

In business and government when someone misrepresents facts with such abandon they usually end up in court. In academia they get placed on paid leave to defend or ignore the indefensible.

The questions I was asking TWO YEARS AGO eventually became a refrain when Emory announced an investigation in February. A couple of months later, the university announced that its internal review was done and it had "concluded that further investigation would be warranted by an independent committee of distinguished scholars."

Then in May, the National Endowment for the Humanities announced it was withdrawing its sponsorship from a fellowship awarded to Bellesiles through the Newberry Library in Chicago.

What took so long? The book came out in the fall of 2000. Professor Malcolm wrote a piece eviscerating the Bellesilles thesis in Reason Magazine shortly thereafter. I interviewed her on the air in December 2000. The scholastic feeding frenzy followed throughout 2001. And still, this academic fiction has not been resolved? And by the way, what about the committee that bestowed the once upon a time "prestigious" Bancroft Award?

Bellesilles is to academia what Al Gore is to politics. Why stall, obfuscate and defend the indefensible?

"Arming America" was embraced and lauded by academia and media because it offered "presumed facts" from a "reputable" scholar that supported a politically correct preferred reality…that had NO basis in reality.

I have too often noted, "…some people don't like facts that contradict their preconceived opinions." The collorary of that is also true: "…people LIKE facts that support their preconceived opinions."

Emory and the tenured masses of academia have some serious fence mending to do. They should start with breaking Bellesiles sword, ripping the buttons off his blouse, and marching him out of their ivy covered palace in shame.

In 1676 Geoff Metcalf's direct ancester Michael Metcalf returned to his home in Dedham Massachusetts to discover Indians had burned his home to the ground. Michael collected an armed militia from his neighbors and marched south to fight in the 'King Philips War' in Rhode Island. ALL those militia neighbors had and used guns.

© 2002 Geoff Metcalf - All Rights Reserved

Geoff is a veteran media performer. He has had an eclectic professional background covering a wide spectrum of radio, television, magazine, and newspapers.  A former Green Beret and retired Army officer he is in great demand as a speaker. Metcalf has hosted his radio talk show on the ABC/Disney owned and operated KSFO and in worldwide syndication.