- ‘Tis the Season: London florist creates $4.6 million Christmas wreath
- No tailgating allowed at Super Bowl XLVIII
- Pentagon to transport African troops to Central African Republic
- Chinese man fed up with his girlfriend’s shopping jumps to his death
- Ukraine leader to talk with protesters; Washington urges caution
- Pope Francis: A nun saved my life
- Israeli P.M. Netanyahu backs out of Mandela funeral
- Elian Gonzalez makes first trip outside Cuba since custody battle
- U.S., British intelligence agents enter online sci-fi world to spy on gamers
- Sarah Palin to host the outdoors show ‘Amazing America’
Ready to aim
ARMED AMERICA: THE STORY OF HOW AND WHY GUNS BECAME AS AMERICAN AS APPLE PIE
By Clayton E. Cramer, Nelson Current, $26.99, 320 pages
In 1996, Michael Bellesiles published a paper in the Journal of American History. The thesis: Early Americans rarely owned firearms, and manufacturer marketing and activist lobbying created today’s gun culture. Four years later, Mr. Bellesiles turned the paper into a book, “Arming America.”
The claim, obviously, was false. When researchers discovered he’d (at best) grossly misinterpreted document after document — and even claimed to review records destroyed decades earlier — he resigned his job as an Emory University professor. Columbia University revoked the Bancroft Prize it had awarded Mr. Bellesiles and asked for the award money back.
One good thing came from all this, though. The initially positive reaction to “Arming America” stunned gun-rights supporter, historian and blogger Clayton Cramer. He decided to set the record straight, and the result is the thorough and well written “Armed America.”
The new thesis: Guns are “as American as apple pie.” Three sections, covering Colonial, revolutionary and early republican America, show just how that happened.
Mr. Cramer writes in a clear if dry style, patiently cataloguing example after example of guns’ historical prevalence. The book weighs in at a tidy 243 pages (excluding the bibliography and footnotes, but including the helpful gun-terms glossary) yet demands some effort and concentration.
It will surprise even pro-gun readers how pervasive firearms were in Colonial days. By law, white men liable for militia service often had to own guns, but they were far from the only demographic that chose to. Well before the Declaration of Independence, women had guns. Free and even slave blacks had guns. Soon after contact with whites, American Indians became dependent on firearms for hunting.
Widespread gun possession led to control efforts then as today. Governments could ban black gun possession, but seldom with complete success; “grand juries in South Carolina complained that masters were bringing guns to church, as the law required, then handing them to slaves to hold during services.”
In the late 1650s, Virginia prohibited gun sales to Indians. But the neighboring colonies didn’t follow suit, and a year later the ban died — the tribes were getting guns anyway, and leaders reasoned Virginia might as well receive some of the business. The law returned in 1665 but worked poorly, and the next decade, selling guns to Indians became a capital offense.
In the late-17th century, American whites settled on making gun acquisition difficult for hostile tribes but easy for friendly ones. Prohibition just didn’t work.
Despite Mr. Cramer’s own pro-gun leanings, however, he doesn’t neglect firearms’ downsides. For example, he cites one estimate that the Colonial New England crime rate rose as high as 11-14 times today’s figure. Accidents, he notes, were also far from uncommon.
When the Revolutionary War’s first months rolled around, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress bought guns from private citizens to supply the few firearm-less militia members. There were enough left, records indicate, that some non-militia homeowners defended themselves against British assault.
Mr. Cramer admits that the military did experience some notable firearm shortages — not typically of total guns in the region, but of guns in militia as opposed to private hands, or of specific weapons. Accurate, hunting-friendly rifles were plentiful, easily reloadable muskets less so.
By Brahma Chellaney
Beijing's creeping aggression signals a challenge to U.S. presence in the Asian Pacific
- Chinese man fed up with his girlfriend's shopping jumps to his death
- CURL: Obama tells a whopper on IRS scandal
- Satanists petition for statue at Oklahoma Statehouse
- Tech companies call for an end to NSA online snooping
- Lawmakers see 'false narrative' of Obama as a terrorist fighter
- Ted Cruz sees legal landmines ahead for Obamacare
- WOLF: The president's other Obamacare lies
- Obama lied about Syrian chemical attack, 'cherry-picked' intelligence: report
- MSNBC host: Obamacare a 'wealthy white men' racist word
- Mike Shanahan says he'd like to return to Redskins
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
The world impacts us. What happens in our towns, cities, states, country and on this planet makes a difference to us.
Happiness is attainable. Morning to night. I love to teach, deal with folks that have an issue and really wish to tackle it and write.
Brazen, leading-edge, “call it like it is” columns and reporting from Ohio native, radio host and writer, Sara Marie Brenner.
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow