- The Washington Times - Friday, August 23, 2002

Emory University is continuing its investigation of historian Michael Bellesiles, author of a book that attacks the "myth" of early American gun ownership.

"Professor Michael Bellesiles will be on paid leave from his teaching duties at Emory University during the fall semester," the university said in a statement released yesterday.

Scholars say they have found evidence of research fraud in Mr. Bellesiles' book, "Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture," which one critic says is full of "massive misrepresentation" and another says is "riddled with errors."

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The university's six-month investigation "is continuing," the statement said. "Professor Bellesiles and the university have agreed that the results of the university's inquiry will be made public when the inquiry is completed."

Members of the Emory history department had expected to hear an announcement about Mr. Bellesiles' tenure today, Melissa Seckora of National Review reported yesterday on that magazine's Web site (nationalreview.com).

Classes begin at Emory next week. The university, an elite private institution on the east side of Atlanta, previously announced that it planned to conclude its inquiry into Mr. Bellesiles' work by September.

Emory was forced to begin its investigation of "Arming America" after critics exposed extensive errors and apparent fabrication of sources in the book.

"Arming America" reaped enthusiastic endorsements when it was published in the fall of 2000. Reviewers praised it as "exciting" and "valuable." Among other things, Mr. Bellesiles claimed that, contrary to popular belief, private gun ownership was rare in early America. Gun control advocates credited Mr. Bellesiles with "demolishing the myth" of Second Amendment rights to individual ownership of firearms. The book won the prestigious Bancroft Award last year.

Meanwhile, other researchers including author Clayton Cramer and Northwest University law professor James Lindgren began to document errors in "Arming America."

Scholars especially condemned "Arming America's" misrepresentation of 18th- and 19th-century probate records, which Mr. Bellesiles said proved that guns were rare in America's early days. Mr. Lindgren and others suggested Mr. Bellesiles had fabricated some sources, pointing out that he cited California records that had been destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Ohio State University history professor Randolph Roth 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."

Mr. Bellesiles claimed he would be vindicated by a symposium on his work that was published in the William and Mary Quarterly in February, but the contributors to that issue were overwhelmingly negative toward "Arming America."

Emory announced an investigation in February. In April, the university announced that its internal review was complete and it had "concluded that further investigation would be warranted by an independent committee of distinguished scholars."

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

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