Bellesiles’ Arming America Redux: Does the Gunning of America Rewrite American History to Suit Modern Sensibilities?
41 S. Ill. U. L.J. 403-338 (2017)
44 Pages Posted: 11 Jun 2016 Last revised: 31 Aug 2017
Date Written: June 3, 2016
Fifteen years ago, Michael Bellesiles’ Arming America was the darling of antigun intellectuals because it created an entirely new perception of the American relationship to guns. It implicitly argued for a much narrower reading of the Second Amendment, one compliant with an America (then) that hated guns and did not own them and an ivory tower today that hates guns and the Americans who bought at least 23 million guns in 2015. Questions were soon raised about the accuracy of the statistics in Bellesiles’ articles and book, and then his honesty about where he researched documents, his widespread alteration of quotes, and his citations to documents that directly refuted his claims. He rapidly went from tenured professor of history at Emory University to bartender, picking up some unprecedented punishments along the way for fraud. A new book, Pamela Haag’s The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture (Basic Books, 2015) makes (by the author’s own admission) many of the same arguments and demonstrates the dangers of unexamined assumptions. Judges and their clerks need to be aware that while the future is known; the past changes at the whim of careless historians.
Keywords: guns,Second Amendment
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