Clayton Cramer has a new paper out which examines “The Gunning of America,” which we talked about here. He doesn’t go into great detail to look at the research footnotes, but perhaps that is not strictly necessary, as he mentions “The Gunning of America Builds on Sand,” noting that the author started the book with the assumption that Michael Bellesiles “Arming America” was correct! Clayton was instrumental in bringing Bellesiles academic fraud to light, and notes the book was “An Almost Unprecedented Historical Fraud,” in this new paper.
The rest of this article could be spent examining Haag’s footnotes in the methodical (some might say, obsessive way) that I deconstructed Michael Bellesiles’ ARMED AMERICA and eventually helped others to do the same to his career. But this article focuses on Haag’s presupposition that renders the validity of the rest of her research worthy of careful study, instead of simple acceptance: was American gun culture an antebellum creation in response to clever marketing by early industrial gun makers such as Colt, Remington, and Winchester? Haag never directly addresses Bellesiles’ claim, simply using nearly every source as evidence in support of this theory.
Proving the existence or absence of a pre-existing gun culture presents an interesting problem. How do you define gun culture? Haag at point distinguishes “the ‘ordinary shooter’” from “the ‘gun crank’”. “The latter… was a customer with a deep psychological bond with his gun. This was a transition from imagining a customer who needed guns but didn’t especially want them to a customer who wanted guns but didn’t especially need them.”44
Fortunately, Michael Bellesiles arrayed a list of sources that demonstrated a strong gun culture well before the industrial gun makers started their marketing. But (as usual) he falsely claimed the opposite. His claim was that most Americans, even on the frontier, according to this astonishing claim, did not hunt until the mid-1830s, when a small number of wealthy Americans chose to ape their upper class British counterparts. An even more amazing claim is that until 1848, when Samuel Colt mass marketed the revolver, violence between whites was somewhat unusual, and murder was rare.
As always, read the whole thing. Someone might want to consider taking the time to look up a few footnotes and see if her research pans out. You’ll notice on the book page, a lot of academics and journalists have spoken favorably of the work, but we know they won’t bother to do any peer review because they like the conclusion.