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Thursday, October 24, 2002
The Nation has a breathtakingly incompetent defense of The Arming of America by Michael Bellesiles. The Guardian, hardly a haven for right-wing gun nuts, also summarized the criticism of Michael Bellesiles' work. The Guardian, though, cites a finding that completely obliterates the position taken by the Nation. The Nation argues that because the disputed records in San Francisco pertained to the period around 1850, they have no bearing on the central thesis that gun ownership was rare before and during the period that the Second Amendment was crafted. Indeed, they were at worst tangential and could even support the Bellesiles theory of the 19th century origin of widespread ownership.

According to the Guardian, Lindgren went over the same Vermont probate records from the late 18th century that Bellesiles cited. Instead of the 14% of households owning guns that Bellesiles found, Lindgren found 40%. This is a very strong argument against Bellesiles and a significant demonstration of fraud or incompetence. Not surprisingly, the Nation omits the stronger argument and attacks the weaker in order to prove its point.

Another fine example of the Nation cherry-picking its facts is its citing the battles of Lexington and Concord as an example of Americans' unfamiliarity with the use of firearms, and I quote:

"One of my favorite examples: Of the famous Minutemen at Lexington Green in 1775, only seven actually fired their muskets, and only one Redcoat was actually hit."

True enough as stated, but there is more to the story.

After the quick and easy victory at Lexington, the British advanced to Concord. We Americans were rarely stupid enough to stand up in close ranks and trade musket volleys with the British regulars. Instead, the Minutemen reverted to the tactics they had learned in 100 years of intermittent Indian wars (I wonder what weapons they used in them? No matter, I suppose). The British retreat was harassed all the way back from Concord to Lexington by hidden marksmen. They were slaughtered in an ambush at Bloody Angle and routed at Fiske's Hill, suffering 273 casualties out of a force of 700 vs. 94 losses from a smaller American force. The arrival of a relief column at Concord prevented their annihilation or surrender. Not bad for people who had few guns and didn't know quite what to do with them.

Instapundit shoots some more holes in the Nation. It's just a big fat slow target -- who could resist?

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