Mr. Hartman’s article is itself a popularization of a relatively obscure academic article entitled “The Hidden History of the Second Amendment,” published in the University of California at Davis Law Review in 1998 by — I wouldn’t make this up — one Carl T. Bogus, a law Professor at the Roger T. Williams School of Law, the top — indeed the only — law school in the state of Rhode Island.
Mr. Bogus is the editor of “The Second Amendment in Law and History,” a compilation of articles by advocates of the “collective right” school of Second Amendment interpretation, which rejects the prevailing view that the Constitution protects an individual right to gun ownership.
Citing its “redundant” essays, Kirkus Reviews concluded that the “narrow focus” of the one-sided Bogus collection “ultimately raises suspicions that this tendentious volume protests too much.”
Among Mr. Bogus’ handpicked contributors to the 2001 anthology was Michael Bellesiles, author of “Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture,” a 2000 book controversially claiming that individual gun ownership did not become prevalent in the U.S. until after the Civil War, generations after ratification of the Second Amendment. Originally lauded as a bracing work of provocative scholarship and winner of Columbia University’s coveted Bancroft Prize for history, “Arming America” was eventually discredited among historians as an unprofessional, error-strewn, improperly documented, partly fabricated and likely fraudulent work.
In 2002 “Arming America” became the first Bancroft Prize winner ever to have its award rescinded, after Columbia trustees found that its author had “violated the basic norms of scholarship and the high standards expected of Bancroft Prize Winners.” That same year Mr. Bellesisles resigned under pressure from Emory University, where he’d been a history professor, after an internal review questioned his “scholarly integrity.”
Mr. Bogus’ early praise for “Arming America” — “undoubtedly the most important historical work ever produced about guns in America,” he gushed in a 2001 review — has been cited as a significant factor in the book’s original acceptance among historians.
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Daniel Wattenberg is arts and features editor for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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