- The Washington Times - Friday, February 8, 2002

From combined dispatches
Atlanta's Emory University has started a formal inquiry into accusations of research misconduct by history professor Michael Bellesiles, author of a prize-winning book that claimed gun ownership was rare in early America.
The university has initiated a process for "addressing allegations of misconduct in research," Robert Paul, dean of Emory College, the school's undergraduate division, said in a statement.
"Both the history department and Michael Bellesiles have now requested that we initiate this process, and we have done so," Mr. Paul said. "Professor Bellesiles says that he welcomes the review by his faculty colleagues and other scholars in this forum."
Mr. Bellesiles, currently doing research in Chicago, did not return phone calls from reporters yesterday.
Critics contend Mr. Bellesiles made up, miscounted or misinterpreted information in early records to advance his contention that Americans before the mid-1800s did not own or use as many firearms as is commonly believed.
The Emory dean said the Bellesiles inquiry will be narrowly focused.
"The only thing we're concerned about is research misconduct, not errors or interpretations of fact or miscountings," Mr. Paul said.
The dean said the inquiry should conclude by the end of the month, and will establish whether there is cause to move on to a more detailed investigation.
Published by Knopf in the fall of 2000, "Arming America" won praise from proponents of gun control. Michael Zuckerman, a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote: "Michael Bellesiles is the NRA's worst nightmare."
Gun-rights activists said "Arming America" distorted history to undermine Second Amendment freedoms by suggesting that few Americans owned firearms until after the Civil War and that early militias were ineffective. Charlton Heston, president of the National Rifle Association, said the book showed that Mr. Bellesiles had "too much time on his hands."
Last year, even as the book was being awarded the prestigious Bancroft Prize for history, Mr. Bellesiles' academic colleagues began to raise doubts about his work.
Several scholars say they have found serious flaws in Mr. Bellesiles' research, including his claims to have used data from 19th-century documents that experts say were destroyed in the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906.
Last year, the chairman of Emory's history department took the unusual step of asking Mr. Bellesiles to answer his critics, saying the professor must "defend himself and the integrity of his scholarship immediately."
Mr. Bellesiles defends his claims in an upcoming issue of the William & Mary Quarterly, but Mr. Paul's statement indicated that the professor's response had not settled the dispute, and "questions remain concerning his research."
In the William & Mary Quarterly forum which will be published next week four leading historians evaluate "Arming America," and Mr. Bellesiles provides a lengthy defense.
Among the William & Mary forum participants is Gloria L. Main, history professor at the University of Colorado, who says "Arming America" greatly underestimates the level of gun ownership in Colonial times.
Randolph Roth, professor of history at Ohio State University, says Mr. Bellesiles let his theory guide his research, rather than the other way around.



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