- The Washington Times - Friday, January 10, 2003

Alfred A. Knopf Inc. has halted publication of a book that claimed guns were rare in early America, after Columbia University revoked a prestigious award to the author who was accused of research misconduct.
Michael A. Bellesiles' "Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture" won critical praise when it was published in the fall of 2000, and received the Bancroft Prize for historical writings in 2001, but was later discredited by researchers who found evidence that the author had fabricated or misrepresented his sources.
"The book had been subject to criticisms and we certainly looked at that," Knopf spokesman Paul Bogaards said yesterday. "As a responsible publisher, we thought it best to let the book go out of print."
The decision by Knopf, a division of Random House, to cease publication of "Arming America" was the latest in a series of reversals for Mr. Bellesiles, whose book initially generated widespread acclaim:
Columbia revoked the Bancroft Prize considered the most prestigious award for history writing on Dec. 16, saying the university's board of trustees "concluded that [Mr. Bellesiles] had violated basic norms of scholarship and the high standards expected of Bancroft Prize winners."
In October, Emory University announced that Mr. Bellesiles would resign as a history professor there. A review committee of three outside scholars found Mr Bellesiles' work showed "evidence of falsification," "egregious misrepresentation" and "exaggeration of data."
cIn May, the National Endowment for the Humanities demanded that the federal agency's name be removed from a fellowship awarded to Mr. Bellesiles, saying that "the name of the National Endowment for the Humanities represents a standard that Professor Bellesiles' application [for the fellowship] did not meet."
Despite Knopf's decision to stop publication of "Arming America," officials of the company continued to defend Mr. Bellesiles.
"I don't think there was any malice on Michael's part," Mr. Bogaards said.
Mr. Bellesiles' editor at Knopf, Jane Garrett, told the Associated Press, "I still do not believe in any shape or form he fabricated anything. He's just a sloppy researcher."
Those remarks angered one of Mr. Bellesiles' most persistent critics, author Clayton Cramer.
"I am very disappointed that Knopf is still pretending that Bellesiles's problem is just that he's a sloppy researcher," said Mr. Cramer, who exposed alterations of historic texts in the Bellesiles book. "He has told too many different, contradictory stories. He is a liar, and Knopf should feel real shame about allowing this fraud to continue as long as it did."
"Arming America," with its claims that guns were rare and militias ineffective in early America, was celebrated by gun-control advocates who said the book proved the Second Amendment was not meant to protect a right to private gun ownership.
Mr. Bellesiles was called "the NRA's worst nightmare," and even filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a federal trial involving gun control.
Despite its acclaim, however, the book came under increasingly harsh scrutiny by scholars, including James Lindgren, a law professor at Northwestern University who found errors in Mr. Bellesiles' research.
Journalist Melissa Seckora of National Review found that Mr. Bellesiles cited California records that authorities agreed had been destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Ohio State University history professor Randolph Roth concluded that assertions in "Arming America" were "not supported by the sources Mr. Bellesiles cites, the sources he does not cite, or by the data he presents."
Mr. Bogaards of Knopf said it is rare that a history book by a respected scholar leads to such claims of misrepresentation.
"I think instances like what we experienced with 'Arming America' are the very infrequent exception in our business," Mr. Bogaards said. "In most cases, the credentials will stand up. Most history books, you're not going to have teams of lawyers looking at it."

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