- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Gun-rights groups are calling for Columbia University to rescind the Bancroft Prize it gave last year to a historian after an investigation found he "willingly misrepresented the evidence" in his award-winning work.
Michael Bellesiles last week announced his resignation from Emory University in Atlanta after an academic panel said his book, "Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture," showed "evidence of falsification," "egregious misrepresentation" and "exaggeration of data."
"Along with the prize, [Mr.] Bellesiles should be required to return the $4,000 cash award that came with it," said Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), based in Bellevue, Wash.
Calling the Bellesiles book "a monumental fraud," Mr. Gottlieb said failure to revoke the award would "tarnish Columbia and the Bancroft Award."
One scholar who investigated "Arming America" said Columbia officials have followed the debate surrounding Mr. Bellesiles' book closely. The university confirmed yesterday it might reconsider the award.
"The university is looking into this issue," said Columbia University spokeswoman Lauren Marshall.
Published in October 2000, the Bellesiles book was awarded the Bancroft Prize, considered the most prestigious award for history writing, in April 2001. Yet the book's reputation was diminished as scholars began exposing problems in Mr. Bellesiles' research methods.
"Arming America" claimed gun ownership was rare and militias were ineffective in early America. The book was praised by gun-control advocates, who said it debunked historical arguments for an individual's right to possess firearms.
"It is remarkable how silent those same people are, now that the book's serious flaws have been revealed," said Dave LaCourse, public affairs director for the SAF. He said that "Bellesiles' bogus research" was used last year in legal briefs against rights to private gun ownership in the Texas case of U.S. v. Emerson.
"This book was trying to claim that the Second Amendment couldn't have been about people owning guns as individuals," Mr. Gottlieb said.
Jews for the Protection of Firearms Ownership also called for Columbia to rescind its award to Mr. Bellesiles.
"I would think if Columbia University itself doesn't revoke the award, then they are raising a big red flag that they support fraud and intellectual dishonesty," said Aaron Zelman, executive director of JPFO. "What kind of a message does this send if they don't revoke the award?"
However, the nation's largest organization of gun owners has not joined the demand that Columbia rescind its Bancroft award to Mr. Bellesiles.
"We think certainly the work has been judged by a jury of professor Bellesiles' peers," said Bill Parkerson, spokesman for the 4-million-member National Rifle Association. "We would expect the Bancroft people to read that report, but any decision they make is up to them."
Mr. Parkerson said he expected Columbia University to act independently of outside pressure.
Emory University announced Mr. Bellesiles' resignation Friday, eight months after the university began an investigation of the accusations of research misconduct against him. A committee of three scholars from Princeton, Harvard and the University of Chicago was appointed to investigate.
The inquiry focused on Mr. Bellesiles' use of probate records colonial court records of wills that he claimed showed low levels of gun ownership in early America.
"Every aspect of his work in the probate records is deeply flawed," the committee concluded in its report, which Emory made public Friday.
The committee found Mr. Bellesiles, a tenured professor with 14 years at Emory, was "guilty of unprofessional and misleading work."


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