Was Bellesiles Really Threatened?


Mr. Fought holds a Ph.D. in linguistics from Yale; he taught linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. He owns guns but is not a member of any pro- or anti-gun organizations.

In June 2001, on the initiative of some members of the council of the Omohundro Institute, the American Historical Association council adopted a remarkable statement, considering "personal attacks upon or harassment of an author, as we have seen directed at Michael A. Bellesiles following publication of Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture, to be inappropriate and damaging to a tradition of free exchange of ideas and the advancement of our knowledge of the past."

Notice that the council says they have seen these things and these consequences. Did they perhaps instead just hear about them from Bellesiles and his friends, like the rest of us? In a number of interviews before and after that date, Bellesiles said that after the book came out, he received many violent messages, including death threats, some aimed at his family. Reviews and other media accounts have often repeated these claims as facts. For example, the Manchester Guardian (June 1, 2002) reported that Bellesiles moved house because of threats against his family.

Threats of violence are indeed despicable. Moreover, such threats are felonies in themselves, each punishable by a substantial fine, imprisonment, or both, as prescribed by the codes of Georgia (16-11-37)1 and the United States (see for example 18 U.S.C. Part 1 Ch. 41 Sec 875b). As a first step toward an investigation, credible threats must be reported to local authorities. 1

Bellesiles did not do this. Such complaints are in the public record. The police departments of Emory University, the city of Atlanta, DeKalb County, and Fulton County report no complaints from Bellesiles about harassment or threats. Of course, that doesn't mean he received no abusive messages, but it does suggest that he didn't really feel very threatened by them if he did -- not even enough to seek help from law enforcement. It seems too that he was right in this judgment: I know of no mention of actual attempts to physically harm him or his family, and I think he would have mentioned it, if any such attempt had been made. So, we are left wondering if he really did move his family out of their home over something he openly talked about but didn't feel a need to report. Based on his record so far, I'm not ready to take his word on this.

It is a fact, and not a new one, that in America, public discourse about strongly held opinions often leads to strong language. When the continuing attention given to these alleged threats and abusive messages is set alongside the almost nonexistent coverage of similar threats made against John Lott Jr., author of More Guns, Less Crime (1998, 2000), we can see that it is threats presumably made by 'gun-nuts' that are deemed newsworthy. Similar threats made against Lott are scarcely mentioned anywhere but in the second edition of his book, and even he gives them very little space (2000:204-5, 299).2 Lott's book showed strong statistical evidence of continuing downward trends in violent crime rates in each state after its adoption of nondiscretionary concealed weapon laws, so-called 'shall issue' permit laws. This finding drew down upon him harassment, threats, and outright, apparently organized lies from anti-gun zealots over a period of at least three years.

Lott considered most of the threats as evidence only of a need to let off steam. He mentions that one written threat was stuck onto his apartment door. Part of another threat can be read on p. 299 of the second edition. Surprisingly, it doesn't fit the wishful stereotype of gun-control advocates as sensitive, peace-loving folk. Its rhetoric is comparable in every way to stereotypical hard-right material.

Conversely, threats against Bellesiles are taken at face value and talked about because they support a belief cherished by advocates of gun control, including many academics, journalists, and their employers, that gun owners as a group have violent, even paranoid tendencies, and would naturally be inclined to make threats. After all, they own guns, don't they? So let's not spoil this picture by wondering who sent threats to John Lott.2

In the end, though, a focus on threats and harassment only distracts from more interesting questions: why did Bellesiles write his book in just that way, at just that time? And will the AHA make a timely statement condemning the fabrication and misquotation of sources?

1 Here is the text of the Georgia code, Section 16-11-37.
(a) A person commits the offense of a terroristic threat when he threatens to commit any crime of violence or to burn or damage property with the purpose of terrorizing another or of causing the evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or facility of public transportation or otherwise
causing serious public inconvenience, or in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror or inconvenience.
No person shall be convicted under this subsection on the uncorroborated testimony of the party to whom the threat is communicated.
(b) A person commits the offense of a terroristic act when:
(1) He uses a burning or flaming cross or other burning or flaming symbol or flambeau with the intent to terrorize another or another's household; or
(2) While not in the commission of a lawful act, he shoots at or throws an object at a conveyance which is being operated or which is occupied by passengers.
(c) A person convicted of the offense of a terroristic threat or act shall be punished by a fine of not more than $1,000.00 or by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years, or both.
(d) A person who commits or attempts to commit a terroristic threat or act with the intent to retaliate against any person for:
(1) Attending a judicial or administrative proceeding as a witness or party or producing any record, document, or other object in a judicial or official proceeding; or
(2) Providing to a law enforcement officer, adult or juvenile probation officer, prosecuting attorney, or judge any information relating to the commission or possible commission of an offense under the laws of this state or of the United States or a violation of conditions of bail, pretrial release, probation, or parole shall be guilty of the offense of a terroristic threat or act and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than five nor more than ten years or by a fine of not less than $50,000.00, or both.

2 Lott does trace the campaign of public health gun-control advocacy groups against his book as a part of his systematic rebuttal of published criticisms of his findings in the second edition. These groups and individuals assert over and over that the book"has been discredited." In my judgment, it has not. Don B. Kates et al. give an excellent survey and analysis of the public health anti-gun advocacy literature in their paper"Guns and Public Health: Epidemic of violence or pandemic of propaganda?" (61 Tenn. Law Rev. 513-596 [1994]).

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More Comments:

Bob Robertson - 9/1/2002


You might be interested in the Media Research Center http://www.mrc.org audit
of how firearms were reported in the news over the course of many years.

For instance, one recent event where a murderer was held at gunpoint by
two different people was reported as "tackled by students" and "held for
police" everywhere except in the local paper. Everywhere, even when the
gun held by the murderer, number of shots fired, and other gory details were
reported in gory detail.

This is not an isolated incident, it is merely a single example of a continuous
action by reporters and editors.


John G. Fought - 8/24/2002

Thanks for the correction on the article. I'll wait to see what
happens next.

Tim Lambert - 8/21/2002

Dr Fought: You are mistaken. The Ayres and Donahue study available at http://islandia.law.yale.edu/ayers/ postdates the second edition of "More Guns, Less Crime". In the book Lott is responding to their review of the 1st edition. I have read "More Guns, Less Crime". You can find my comments at http://www.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/guns/lott/

Mr Cramer: I think the bias you find in footnote 21 of the Ayres and Donahue study is in the eye of the beholder. I find no bias in that footnote. It is ridiculous to suppose that an anti-gun reporter would dismiss a study that found more guns associated with more crime just because a footnote was biased. And, even if all reporters did such a thing it would prove that the media was not biased against guns.

John G. Fought - 8/20/2002

One of the people who heard about the study was John Lott. He shared his data set with them. He also discusses their paper in
the second edition of his book. Check it out.

Clayton E. Cramer - 8/20/2002

I think the reason that this study hasn't gotten much coverage
is that:

1. The media covered Lott's claims, and in spite of the best efforts of the antigun forces to demonstrate otherwise, the states that adopted non-discretionary permit issuance laws haven't seen enough criminal misuse of those permits to justify repealing these laws.

2. As I pointed out elsewhere, that "study" claims that Lott miscoded Georgia and Florida's starting years, when in fact, Georgia and Florida are unusual cases, with the new law taking effect part-way through the year. It would appear that the authors of this study didn't research this carefully enough to know WHY Lott coded the start year for Florida and Georgia as he did.

3. Even an antigun reporter can read footnote 21 of that "study" well enough to see the clear bias at work.

Tim Lambert - 8/20/2002

I've retitled the subject so that it reflects what Dr Fought's article was about. (Assuming I've got it right this time :-)

Media coverage is biased, but the bias is towards what makes a better story rather than against guns and gun owners. Yes, bad things done with guns get more publicity than good things done with them, but that's because bad stuff in general makes a better story.

Threats on Bellesiles got more publicity that threats on Lott because Bellesiles made a bigger deal about them.

Lott got lots of publicity for his study where he claimed that concealed carry laws had caused violent crimes to fall. Ayres and Donahue have extended Lott's study with data up to 1997 including those states which have passed laws since Lott's original work. They found that crimes INCREASED in more states than fell. Who has heard of their study?
(Their study is at http://islandia.law.yale.edu/ayers/ )

Tim Lambert - 8/20/2002

The font size is specified in the CSS file as 10 pixels, so changing the default font size has no effect. HNN is not the only site with this problem (though it's the only one where they can't get the dates of comments correct :-)

Claims about threats and claims about probate records are quite different. We can determine whether or not the probate records say what Bellesiles claims. We can't be sure about the threats one way or another. (Even if, for example, we found scorch marks on his door, he could have set the fire himself.)

To return to my original point, I think the reason why the Lindgren critique of Bellesiles is so effective is that he confines himself to just those sort of points where we can say with certainty that Bellesiles is incorrect.

Incidently, Glenn Reynolds has made a copy of Lindgren's piece available at

Thomas Gunn - 8/19/2002



When does summer officially end, and which summer were they talking about, 2002, 3, 4, 5? ;-))


Ralph E. Luker - 8/19/2002

As I recall, students register for classes on the 29th. They will know whether the option to register for a class with MB is available to them then. Emory had said there would be an announcement by the end of the summer.

Thomas Gunn - 8/19/2002


The fire of which you speak, I have no desire to see under true historian's rear ends. I see real historians with furrowed brow, pale skin, and pince-nez precariously perched. I don't see real historians making up sources, advancing political agenda, or failing the expectations of their fellows. The fire under Michael's rear end was lit with his own match.

When will we hear what Emory has decided?


Ralph E. Luker - 8/18/2002

I do not for a moment believe that simply because you like to see fire under historians' rear ends that you may have heated Michael's door.

Thomas Gunn - 8/18/2002

Our prayer have been answered.

Thank you.

(See the box under this weeks headlines.)


John G. Fought - 8/18/2002

I agree that the title is misleading, but as Mr. Gunn guessed, I didn't choose it. The HNN editor wrote that title; when I looked at the posting, there it was. My title, which may have seemed too obscure or too cute to the editor, was 'Sticks, stones, words, and bones'. It did at least refer both to the house he moved out of and the real market value of empty threats, rather than the question in the title, which I didn't actually raise at all, taking it for granted that he did receive threats. As your comment led me to notice, the other comments here that are actually about the posting were all affected by the title. I accept your apology about the name, and I'd be glad to call it even between us. We both seem to belong to the history militia, and that should count for something, even if we mostly argue on opposite sides of this particular issue.

Thomas Gunn - 8/17/2002


First, my fat fingers caused the two null posts. Sorry.

Dr. Fought may not have titled his article, I have it on good authority the site owner sometimes titles the articles that appear here.

In Netscape hold the 'ctrl' key and press the '+' key and the font will increase. Ctrl - reverses the process.

Fought stated the known facts and then opined. The response you noted is to that speculation. I asked earlier, "Where's the beef?" The claim of threats and burned doors is simply an extension of a process that has Michael in such hot water over Arming America. Simply put it is PC lies without a shread of verifiable evidence to back it up.

You could do a great service here Tim by providing some evidence that the threats *actually* took place and that they were realistic and taken seriously by the reporter.



- 8/17/2002

- 8/17/2002

Tim Lambert - 8/17/2002

Dear Dr Fought,
Your article was entitled "Was Bellesiles Really Threatened?".
If you were questioning whether or not he was threatened, why give it that title?

All of the comments about your article were on the question of
whether or not Bellesiles was really threatened, so it seems that everyone else interpreted it the way I did.

I'm sorry I got your name wrong -- Netscape rendered it in an unreadably small font.

John G. Fought - 8/17/2002

No, Mr. Lambert, that's not what you're supposed to conclude.
I wrote that his failure to report doesn't mean there were no abusive messages, and that if there were threats, they were apparently not acted on. The point to this comparison was not that Bellesiles can't be trusted. I see no need to belabor that. I clearly stated my point, that threats allegedly made against Bellesiles were mentioned over and over in news items, whereas the ones Lott mentioned were not. I suggest a reason for that. As for your exchange with Kates, I've read it. You missed a number of good points he made too. Reading my posting again might help, but I have my doubts, since you seem even to have read my name wrong.

Ralph E. Luker - 8/17/2002

I can tell you from hard experience that the peer review process is a very mixed bag. What failed and failed on a number of levels in Bellesiles' case, apparently, was a basic skepticism about a counter-intuitive argument and the evidence that was marshalled to support it. But what failed in the cases of Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin? It wasn't the same failure.
In the peer review process there is usually a broad degree of trust granted among professional people that they are presenting work which is their own, i. e., not the literary property of someone else, and that they have not deliberately misconstrued the evidence. It is that degree of trust which seems to have been taken advantage of in several cases here. Perhaps for the time being, we will simply have to withhold that degree of trust.
I don't think it is quite so easy as creating an accurate record of our past as you suggest. Accuracy is essential. It is absolutely critical. Yet, I don't know of a single "fact" which is simply or only that. It lives in dynamic relationship to other "facts," even in dynamic relationship with other things which don't have the status of "fact." To say that, however, is far from saying that one is free to construe evidence however one wishes or that one is free to make up evidence. Facts do have a hard edge to them and, as we are learning, things which are not facts are very penetrable.

Thomas Gunn - 8/17/2002


Ralph, I expect no more.

The failure was not in the rush to judgement by amateurs but the failure to get the professional peer process started in the face of the overwhelming evidence of need.

We may find agreement in recognizing a systemic disorder, not just in History or higher education but in business too, though we may disagree as to the cause.

I wonder what your guts tell would have happened in Michael's case had not the 'gun lobby' wagged its finger? Or had Michael not tread so harshly on the rock solid scholarship of others more ethical, particularly in the field of probate records?
I am also curious why, if you knew the story of the burned door, and were/are in a position to check, you did not. I would've, just to be able to say, "I told you so."

I see "gun control" as a microcosm of the social order and it fits nicely with my idea of political evolution and explains why civilizations do not long endure.

The answer to, "where do we go from here", is we either create an accurate record of our present, correct the mistakes of our past or suffer the same fate of every previous civilization.


Ralph E. Luker - 8/17/2002

Sure, Thomas. Our conversations and additional revelations which have come to light in the past several months have changed my perspective somewhat. Nonetheless, my point about not attacking authorities who are responsible for making even-handed, fair decisions while they are in the process of making those decisions remains.
Beyond that, it isn't a single case which demands the attention of historians and those it teach them. There are a half-dozen cases and more, some of which simply don't get caught or become notorious. I think there is quite enough evidence on the table already to cause contemporary historians to do some serious re-thinking about what we do and how and why we do it.

Thomas Gunn - 8/16/2002



I look forward to a rematch.

Are you sure you can stand another ten rounds with "the gun lobby"? (I'm watching Friday night fights, can you tell?)

I'm thinking of summarizing your "Rush to Judgement" article at HNN, in three sentences or less because I wonder if what you think you said is what I think I heard.

I do wonder also if you have reached any conclusions regarding 'the current scandals', beyond your previous 'wait and see'.

Don't sell yourself short, if your peers at Emory are too haughty to speak with you, it is their loss, and our gain.

ps. sorry if there was an mt post. t

Thomas Gunn - 8/16/2002

Ralph E. Luker - 8/16/2002

My tenured and, even, untenured friends in the history department at Emory dwell in realms so far above me that I am unworthy even to touch the hems of their garments, let alone talk with them about sensitive matters. But Rick Shenkman says that he will post a piece by me next week which appears in the current _OAH Newsletter_. It is about my conversations with you, the beloved disciple and others here and then further conversations with tenured and untenured friends in history departments across the country about what we can learn from the current "scandals" in the profession. They are not altogether unlike the current scandals in the corporate world. In both places, there's been an accountability glitch.

Thomas Gunn - 8/16/2002


A few steps out of your way and you could see the truth for yourself, yet you avoid it. Why?

Is E.A. correct in his assesment of the tea time talk among profs?


Ralph E. Luker - 8/16/2002

Doubting Thomas and John the Beloved Disciple, I am an agnostic about all this. I walk by the building in which Michael Bellesiles' office is located several times a week on my way to the Emory library. I lack curiosity enough to walk in and look at the door or the plumbing. There are authorities appointed to handle such matters. I assume that they are earning their keep.

E. A. - 8/16/2002

Bellesiles is quoted in the online edition of the Chronicle of Higher Ed for May 10 or May 11, 2001 claiming that his office door was set on fire. This claim was part of what some of the historical organizations heard about in passing resolutions of support for Bellesiles.

To answer your question, it both was reported and is an urban legend.

Thomas Gunn - 8/16/2002

Welcome all you Rogues,

Dr. Ralph Luker, Clayton Cramer, John HOrst, and two new Rogues, Tim Lambert and Don Kates.

Is there anyone here who actually believes the alleged threats took place, and if they did any real credance was given them by Michael?

The burning door allegation is new to me. Was it actually reported or is it an urban legend?

Personally, I'd like to see some evidence the allegations are based in fact, but then, that's just me. I think it has something to do with my Biblical namesake.


Thomas Gunn - 8/16/2002

John and Ralph,

I'm sorry, I should have provided links.

Here is the HNN article re the Emory investigation:

[http://hnn.us/articles/879.html ]

Here is the HNN article that started the exchange between Kates and Lambert:

[http://www.historynewsnetwork.org/articles/871.html ]

The first link is found under the 'breaking news' heading, week of 7-22-02

The second link is found under the heading 'hot topics'. I stumbled on the Kates article quite by accident. Warning the exchanges are quite long.

Re: Cramer, I haven't been to his site in weeks. He may have more current info on Michael.

Maybe he will see the article here on HNN regarding the aledged threats and respond.


Clayton E. Cramer - 8/16/2002

I was informed by a police officer in the Atlanta area some
months back that because police reports are public record,
I would find requesting copies of police reports involving
the supposed threats, "interesting."

I never pursued the matter, largely because I was focused on
the lies that Bellesiles told that were related to history.
I am glad that someone pursued this, however.

Yes, it's possible that Bellesiles received threats, had his
door set on fire, and just didn't bother to call the police
about it. But in light of the rest of his lies contained in
his book, and his continually shifting stories about where
he found various records that do not exist, only a true
believer could still find ANYTHING Bellesiles says credible.

Of course, he is still teaching at Emory, showing the high
standards of credibility and honesty that Emory demands from
its tenured faculty.

E. A. - 8/16/2002

These issues have been well discussed by Professor Bellesiles’s fellow professors around Emory. The consensus at Emory seems to be that there was indeed hate mail sent to Bellesiles. How extensive it actually was is a subject of speculation. After all, there are people that others reasonably consider “gun nuts.” But as to his story about his office door being set on fire, that story is generally viewed around Emory as a hoax, much like his claim that his website was hacked.

As support for the public resolutions, Professor Bellesiles told the Chronicle of Higher Ed that someone had set his office door on fire. How could that have happened without his colleagues at Emory or Emory administrators finding out? Yet his history colleagues have let it be known around campus that they had never heard of it before reading it in the Chronicle.

When Professor Bellesiles moved from Atlanta, he said nothing about harassment as the reason for moving. Only a year or two later, after the book was exposed and its support was falling apart, did he come up with this claim. As everyone in the Emory history department knows, Bellesiles moved before Arming America was published, not after as most reporters have somehow been led to believe.

It seems quite plausible that Bellesiles received some hate mail, for which he deserves sympathy. But Professor Bellesiles’s story about the office door being set on fire is no more credible than his story about his website being hacked, or his story about the flood, or his story about someone changing his emails, or his story about having read hundreds of probate files in San Francisco County, or his story about guns not being stored in the home, or his story about guns being ignored in travel accounts, or his story . . . .

Ken Barnes - 8/16/2002

Appreciate the sympathy, Mr. Lambert, but as E.A. points out below, such anecdotal evidence can accumulate into a pattern. In this case, it's a pattern consistent with the overall thesis that Mr. Bellesiles is an unreliable witness.

John Horst - 8/16/2002

Dear Mr. Gunn:
Isn't it nice to see Mr. Luker's posts? Now, if we can just get him to write another good, stimulating article for HNN! I am still learning the new format, so I will take your advice on looking up the Kates, Lambert exchange. Regarding Emory and the promised verdict that you mentioned on a previous post. They did say by the end of summer, so they still have a few weeks left. Reminds me of my dear old golden school days when I waited until the very last moment to hand in my stuff. I suppose some things will never change. Of course, my procrastination was just plain laziness, I never thought that a delaying action might get the professors to forget the whole thing ever existed...

John Horst - 8/16/2002

After weeks of fruitless visits to HNN, I am finally rewarded! It is so good to hear from you. I hope the summer has been eventful for you, Mr.Luker and that you have made good progress on your book. If only we could get Mr. Cramer to post...

Tim Lambert - 8/15/2002

As far as I can tell, the only evidence Dr Foughtholds offers is

1. Bellesiles did not report any threats to the police.
2. Lott got threats.

From this we are supposed to conclude that Bellesiles made the threats up?

A serious case against Bellesiles has been made by folks like Lindgren, but frivolous charges like this one subtract from the case rather than add to it, since readers may think that the other charges are as weak as this one.

Dr Foughtholds also cites a paper by Kates (available at
http://www.guncite.com/journals/tennmed.html )
Readers who found my exchange with Kates in the Hot Topics section interesting might also be interested in an earlier exchange we had over some baseless accusations he made
in that paper:

Thomas Gunn - 8/15/2002

Ralph, So nice to read you again.

Another interesting comment, but do you recolect the bush was *NOT* consumed?

As a contrib here what's your opinion of the new format?

Have you seen the exchange between Kates and Lambert? Do you have the time to get your feet wet again, or does the boss have a long list of honey-do's for ya? ;-)


Thomas Gunn - 8/15/2002

HNN is a fine web site, and I enjoy it immensely, especially since it tries to stay center. (Largely successful imo to the topics I find interesting.)

Hot seat seems to be spread between 'historians and history' and 'hot topics'. I don't think the "gun stuff" interests the professional historians much, which may explain in part Michael's belief he could 'lean' history with impunity. He might have been successful had he not tread so maliciously on the tangent scholarship of other more ethical scholars.

It is interesting though that the "gun stuff" seems to have generated the most board activity here, at least from where I sit. To me the gun stuff is a microcosm of the big picture. I'm becoming quite alarmed at the possibilities of "Homeland Security", the same argument enabling that as enables gun control. Wouldn't it be a hoot the lefties hoisted on their own petard? (and they won't have the guns to offer any resistance)

BTW what's with the dates, I seem to be working a week or two into the future.

Have you seen the Kates and Lambert exchange here?

Have a nice day, It's finally stopped raining here and the sun shines again.


Ralph E. Luker - 8/15/2002

It's nice to see a family reunion around a burning bush.

John Horst - 8/15/2002

Dear Mr. Gunn:
I was just being lazy and didn't finish typing my last name. I am a little nostalgic for the old HNN format (if one can be nostalgic for anything related to the internet). All in all, it is still a fine website, but I do miss Historians on the Hotseat. I wonder if it went away, or is just tucked into some recesses that I am too inept at finding.

Thomas Gunn - 8/15/2002

Are we ever going to hear what Emory officials have decided?

There was talk of "The Glacial Pace" of peer review in regard to Michael's tome, but at this rate the glaciers will be sea water before the truth is finally revealed.

I am surprised to read there are still defenders of "Arming America", even ones as weak as VJ.

I'm having trouble navigating the new HNN, I don't know if it is my ineptness or a glich in the system.

It was nice to read you again also, I'm assuming your nick is slightly changed from your earlier posts here, and elsewhere.


John H - 8/15/2002

Mr. Gunn, I am glad to see your comments.

E. A. - 8/14/2002

These issues have been well discussed by Professor Bellesiles’s fellow professors around Emory. The consensus at Emory seems to be that there was indeed hate mail sent to Bellesiles. How extensive it actually was is a subject of speculation. After all, there are indeed people that others reasonably consider “gun nuts.” But as to his story about his office door being set on fire, that story is generally viewed around Emory as a hoax, much like his claim that his website was hacked.

As support for the public resolutions, Professor Bellesiles told the Chronicle of Higher Ed that someone had set his office door on fire. How could that have happened without his colleagues at Emory or Emory administrators finding out? Yet his history colleagues have let it be known around campus that they had never heard of it before reading it in the Chronicle.

When Professor Bellesiles moved from Atlanta, he said nothing about harassment as the reason for moving. Only a year or two later, after the book was exposed and its support was falling apart, did he come up with this claim. As everyone in the Emory history department knows, Bellesiles moved before Arming America was published, not after as most reporters have somehow been led to believe.

It seems quite plausible that Bellesiles received some hate mail, for which he deserves sympathy. But Professor Bellesiles’s story about the office door being set on fire is no more credible than his story about his website being hacked, or his story about the flood, or his story about someone changing his emails, or his story about having read hundreds of probate files in San Francisco County, or his story about guns not being stored in the home, or his story about guns being ignored in travel accounts, or his story . . . .

Thomas Gunn - 8/14/2002

Michael made the claim. Show me the beef!

Oops! That's what's missing from Arming Ameica too. I detect a pattern.


John H - 8/14/2002

It is curious that Mr. Bellesiles' claims are NEVER substantiated by ANY documentation. His life is threatened to the point that he must secretly relocate his family, yet he NEVER filed a police report. His papers are ruined by the great Emory flood, yet he NEVER filed an insurance claim or even reported it to the restoration company hired to handle such catastrophies. He criticizes the archivists in California for their incompetence, yet he NEVER registered as a published author and researcher during his alleged visits there. The door to his office is burned, yet he NEVER filed a report with the security deparment at Emory.

Please explain what Bob Barr and Santa and his elves have to do with Mr. Bellesiles' credibility. Or is it yet another attempt at taking the focus away from the issue at hand, as is typical with the camp intent upon bolstering Mr. Bellesiles position? If it is, then all I have to say is: "Come on folks, this is getting pretty cranky here".

VJ - 8/14/2002

Come on folks, this is getting pretty cranky here. It's always good to ask how we know what we know. I was'nt there, so I really don't know. I live in Ga., so I do know the law. I don't need it frivolously cited for me. I also know that other writers like Gary Wills who have written on the topic have also calimed to be threatened by what he charitably calls 'the Gunnies'. Is he too just a simpleton crackpot making false cliams to boost his image or his argument?

Has there been agression seen towards Mr. Bellesiles? Yes, we can see this in several areas of comments about him and his work in many different venues. Is it so diffuclt to believe that this has extended to threats of physical violence? No not really. I live in Ga., we are well armed down here. Santa Clause and his elves were accidentally shot by a woman's concealed handgun in one of our larger malls one Christmas past. MY local Congressman, NRA man Bob Barr shot out a window in the home of a supporter recently as he was admiring a 1908 Browning .38 automatic. Kids die here every month due to accidental discharges of guns. Can we assume that the definite rabidness seen politically from supporters of 'gun rights' is solely confined to the political battlefield? Gee, that would be just sheer idiocy, because we know and have seen otherwise.

So Mr. Kates, how do YOU know that Mr. Bellesiles' door was NOT burned? Were you there? WHEN did you observe the door? Perhaps it was just some papers attached to the door that were ignited? That may not need to 'burn down the entire door', right? If the papers were then removed then all if not most of the 'evidence' would also be removed, right? Papers that continue to burn ON a door will probably put the door itself in severe danger of burning, right? Or was the door a metal door? Do you know any of these things, or do you just speak out of a throughgoing enmity for Mr. Bellesiles work? There has probably not been a piece of domestic American history written in the last 30-40 years that's been subjected to as much scrutiny and outright hostile criticism as has this work. Why is it so difficult to believe that the author was threatened? What proof do you have that it did not happen? Do all victims of such criminal behavior need to file an immediate police report to retain some credibility? So how might this 'standard' of veracity apply to say, a Reconstruction era black farmer, a Civil Rights era share cropper or voting rights organizer or even a run of the mill rape victim? Are you willing to posit their fate at the hands of mob justice on whether or not they all filled out the proper documentation before daring to speak in public of their experience? Just wondering here in Ga. VJ

John H - 8/13/2002

I know for certain what I would do if I or, especially, my family was threatened. I'd make certain my firearms were in working order, then call the authorities. I wonder if Mr. Bellesiles did the former, (as he is a self-proclaimed gun owner) and why he did not do the latter.

Don Kates - 8/12/2002

The author of this article has performed an important service in investigating and exposing another aspect of the Bellesiles Scandal. Let me add a further detail.
Early after the publication of his book Mr. Bellesiles told at least a couple of reporters (one from the CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION) that the door to his office had been set on fire while he was absent therefrom. That assertion was quickly dropped, never to be repeated, however. Assuming that there had been such an incident, one would expect that he would endlessly repeat that fact to support the leit motif that runs through every aspect of his defense of his very dubious book: that he is a genuine scholar beset by the lunatic gun lobby. But there is a severe problem for Mr. Bellesiles with the burning door allegation. How do you know that someone set your door on fire? Well, because of the burn marks all over it. But Bellesiles' door had no such marks. Perhaps it occurred to him that continuing to make the burning door claim would not enhance his credibility when it would be evident to any reporter visiting his office that the door had not been burned.