18 June 2003

More Guns, Less Fakery

First, there was Michael Bellesiles's Arming America, that fraudulently claimed that very few Americans owned guns before the civil war, and that the "gun culture" of early America was myth. Bellesiles was disgraced when it turned out that much of his resources and source data were fabricated. Fellow historians, even those who were friendly to his cause, lashed out at him for his shoddy work and/or deliberate deceit.

Fast forward to John Lott, darling of the fanatical second amendment supporters, who authored More Guns, Less Crime and most recently The Bias Against Guns. Well, it appears that Mr. Lott may be guilty of the same overly creative research that Mr. Bellesiles committed. In fact, the same Northwestern University research professor, James Lindgren has chimed in to debunk Lott's research, suggesting that Lott is at the minimum, guilty of sloppy scholarship, and perhaps, more serious, outright fraud.

Like Bellesiles, Lott has responded to queries about his research with equivocations, excuses and denials. Even libertarian and conservative writers like Michelle Malkin have questioned Lott's integrity. He claims he's lost all the data due to computer crashes and can't remember any names of students who helped him with his survey.

But even more bizarre is that Lott lied about using a pseudonym ("Mary Rosh") to post "voluminous defenses of his work over the Internet". He gave himself a good review on amazon.com and attacked his critics under a byline bearing his false handle. Those acts don't sound like an author confident his research and sources can stand on their own merit.

Some will assail me and say I'm just some whiny anti-gun leftist, but nothing could be further than the truth. I don't care if there's less crime or more crime, or if the Revolutionary War era patriots fought with knives and swords or if every single American owned a gun in 1818. The fact that the U.S. Consitution spells it out for everyone in the 2nd amendment and my strong belief that government should not have the right to deny private citizens ownership of property that is not inherently evil rules my thought on the matter. I prefer freedom over bondage, liberty over restraint.

I read Arming American and was skeptical. I've read parts of More Guns, Less Crime, and the research and tone there struck me as dubious. Our culture is so focused on "safety of the children" that we eagerly concede our God given and Constitutionally granted rights without the slightest struggle.

So, there's always this awkward feeling that I think the pro-gun arguments are focused on the wrong justification - it gives creedence and sacrifices a good chunk of the philosophical argument to the gun control crowd by accepting that an arbitrary, measured degree of societal safety is even a factor in limiting the freedom of a sovereign individual.


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