Archive for the ‘Michael Bellesiles’ Category

The problem of probate

Or is it really a problem? It was for Michael Bellesiles who lost his career because it was assumed that Arming America was solely based upon that information.purdey

The problem is that “common items” such as hoes don’t show up, but firearms do. Which is “proof positive” that firearms were somehow common.

This neglects the expense that firearms most likely were in pre-industrial revolution, colonial America.  On the off chance that there were gunsmiths cranking out firearms, let alone rifles, we have to address the issue of coming up with metal that would withstand being used as a firearm.  That means any steel would have to be hand forged given the Navigation Acts, in particular the Iron Act of 1750, ban on colonial industry (and Birmingham’s monopoly on firearm manufacture).

My previous post comes up with a budget bespoke firearm going for £2,500 (US$3,115.03 at today’s rate). I would post the top end of the firearm range, and some used Purdeys selling in the range of US$65,000. Now, wouldn’t it make sense for something which would cost roughly US$3,000 to 65,000+ to be listed in probate record over something which might have cost anywhere from a couple of dollars to maybe 100 in modern funds?

Also, which would be more valuable? Obviously, the more expensive firearm.

If we are going to say that gunsmith were common, we have to address the cost of tools on top of the cost of producing metal which could be used in firearm production. I seriously doubt that a rifling lathe could have been produced on the frontier.  That would mean that such a device would have had to have been imported from Europe: those pesky Navigation Acts might have been a factor.

It is common knowledge that rifles were being produced on the frontier, which might have had something to do with a prohibition on industry more than societal factors. While muskets may have been inaccurate, early muzzleloading rifles had more problems than they were worth.

I’m sure expense would have been one of them.

While rifles were the more complex firearm to build, they still were like building clockworks. And we are talking about hand making clockwork in a pre-industrial society.

Which leads to two issues:

  1. Were firearms really common, or luxury items that would have been contested after death?
  2. Were colonial gunsmiths actual full blown firearms manufacturers, or just somebody who fixed broken weapons?

I am under the impression that firearms are one of the great American founding myths since it doesn’t look too good when one realises that independence really came because of a grudge match based upon the Seven Years/French and Indian War (e.g., most firearms used were European manufactured): not colonial superiority of any kind. We have documentation of a lack of firearms and firearms manufacturing capability in colonial North America, which I have mentioned before and in this.

The need to make firearms a common item at the time of the founding is a fundamental key to any attempt to portray the Second Amendment as somehow not relating to the common defence.  The problem is that it is painfully obvious  that firearms were luxury items in preindustrial societies, as anyone familiar with hand made firearms will attest.

I would bet the farm that firearms would be as expensive as a Purdey, if not more so, back then.

That’s why probate records are not reliable.


Read and Comprehend

I have to admit annoyance with the ignorentia at MikeB‘s blog (I just changed that from ignorentia ad mikeB’s reluctantly since that sounded very Latin).

In particular Fatheaded White Moron who did point out something I missed in the DC’s list of guns which cannot be registered: a bayonet lug. They missed that one since I wasn’t there cribbing them on what to put in.

Anyway, since I like the idea of regulating assault weapons as machineguns, his example of an M1 Carbine would be an assault rifle in my opinion because:

In selective fire versions capable of fully-automatic fire, the carbine is designated the M2 carbine.

which places it in the 26 USC 5845 definition of a Machine gun:
Machine guns, defined as any firearm which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.

The M2 variant is designed to be capable of fully automatic fire, therefore, the M1 is a machinegun using that defintion.

Tough shit, you cretinous asshole.

I strongly suggest that people read the case law 26 USC 5845 in particular the law relating to “designed to shoot” and “readily restored to shoot”:

“There were two welds in the gun which obviously was, when manufactured, ‘designed to shoot.’ The barrel of the gun was welded closed at the breech and was also welded to the receiver on the outside under the handguard. Scroggie testified that there are two possible ways by which the firearm could be made to function as such. The most feasible method would be to cut the barrel off, drill a hole in the forward end of the receiver and then rethread the hole so that the same or another barrel could be inserted. To do so would take about an 8-hour working day in a properly equipped machine shop. Another method which would be more difficult because of the possibility of bending or breaking the barrel would be to drill the weld out of the breech of the barrel. United States v. Smith, 477 F.2d 399(8th Cir.1973)

In the context of the NFA and its use as a modifier describing the manner of firearm restoration, “readily” has been read to encompass several elements of restoration: (1) time, i.e., how long it takes to restore the weapon; (2) ease, i.e., how difficult it is to restore the weapon; (3) expertise, i.e., what knowledge and skills are required to restore the weapon; (4) necessary equipment, i.e., what tools are required to restore the weapon; (5) availability, i.e., where additional parts are required, how easily they can be obtained; (6) expense, i.e., how much it costs to restore the weapon; (7) scope, i.e., the extent to which the weapon has to be changed to allow it to shoot automatically; (8) feasability, i.e., whether the restoration would damage or destroy the weapon or cause it to malfunction. See S.W. Daniel, Inc. v. United States, 831 F.2d 253, 254-55 (11th Cir. 1987) (ease and scope); United States v. Alverson, 666 F.2d 341, 345 (9th Cir.1982) (expertise, ease, and scope); United States v. Smith, 477 F.2d 399, 400 (8th Cir.1973) (time and equipment); United States v. Aguilar-Espinosa, 57 F.Supp.2d 1359, 1362 (M.D.Fla.1999) (time, ease, expertise, and equipment); United States v. Seven Misc. Firearms, 503 F.Supp. 565, 573-75 (D.D.C.1980) (time, ease, expertise, equipment, availability, expense, and feasibility); United States v. Cook, No. 92-1467, 1993 WL 243823, at *3-4 (6th Cir. July 6, 1993) (availability)…

The decisions of several other courts make clear that the Defendant weapon, which would require, according to Alverson’s own expert, a maximum of six hours to convert to fire automatically, “can be readily restored” under the NFA. The Eighth Circuit held that a semiautomatic rifle that would take an eight-hour working day in a properly equipped machine shop to convert to shoot automatically qualified as a “machinegun” under the NFA.10 Smith, 477 F.2d at 400; cf. United States v. Shilling, 826 F.2d 1365, 1367 (4th Cir.1987) (holding that disassembled guns that could be made to shoot automatically were “readily restor[able]”); S.W. Daniel, Inc., 831 F.2d at 254-55 (upholding the use of a jury instruction defining a machinegun as “those weapons which have not previously functioned as machine guns but possess design features which facilitate full automatic fire by simple modification or elimination of existing component parts”); Alverson, 666 F.2d at 345 (concluding that an automatic weapon that was converted to fire semiautomatically prior to its sale to defendant could be “readily restored” where it could be modified to shoot automatically by filing down one of its parts); United States v. Lauchli, 371 F.2d 303, 312-13 (7th Cir.1966) (in a case prior to the addition of the “can be readily restored” language to the NFA, deciding that weapons requiring assembly to shoot automatically were machineguns under the NFA). U.S. v. One TRW, Model M14, 7.62 Caliber Rifle, 441 F.3d 416(2006)

There’s readily restorable for you!

And why I have a job.

Additionally, some people obviously haven’t read the DC v. Heller decision, in particular page 54. They could also do with reading footnotes 23 and 26. Heller did not get rid of firearms regulations. In fact, I have pointed out that Dick Heller was denied a permit for one of his guns. The DC Metropolitan Police notes on its website that: “about 50 applications to register handguns have been denied since the Heller decision”.

Of course, these people don’t read things or footnotes, unless of course, they are Michael Bellesiles footnotes! Then they rip them apart.

Another point, the “civic right” interpretation of the Second Amendment is not dead as Justice Steven’s dissent provides hope for its revival. The Heller decision is “a strained and unpersuasive reading” which overturned longstanding precedent, and that the court had “bestowed a dramatic upheaval in the law”. Stevens also stated that the amendment was notable for the “omission of any statement of purpose related to the right to use firearms for hunting or personal self-defense” which was present in such documents as the Declarations of Rights of Pennsylvania and Vermont.

So, there is still hope.

Oh, Shit! Michael Bellesiles is coming out with another book!

It’s called 1877 and I wonder if it will get as much attention as Arming America!

An interesting article by Alexander Cockburn on Arming America here

With Bellesiles the stakes are higher because his subject addressed the issue of gun ownership in America and the Second Amendment. By the mid-1990s the battle was tilting decisively in favor of those arguing that the Second Amendment asserts the right of individual American citizens to own guns for self-defense and, if necessary, to counter government tyranny by means of armed popular resistance. (NB: the preceding sentence concludes with 22 words lifted from a piece by Chris Mooney in Lingua Franca.)…

So if the people weren’t armed, and if even official militias were mostly a disheveled rabble without arms, the second amendment was really an antic fantasy, like feudal armor in the mock Tudor hall of a Bradford cotton millionaire.

Posted 05/12/2009 by lacithedog in 1877, Arming America, Michael Bellesiles

Pro-gun rubbish

Let’s see: Kleck and Lott have been discredited all over the internet, yet some people still love quoting them. Well, Michael Bellesiles has some pretty good arguments as well and he didn’t need to pretend to be a student to get praise for Arming America!

Gun Control leads to Genocide! really! I’ve gone over that one with a fine tooth comb. Why hasn’t there been a genocide in Britain since it has had gun control for nearly 90 years now? Maybe the answer to preventing genocide lies elsewhere besides firearms ownership!

Saddam Hussein? Private ownership of guns was very common under Saddam Hussein’s regime and it didn’t stop him. Same goes for the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Check out the Durra Gun Market in this video.

The Second Amendment doesn’t guarantee private ownership outside of the militia institution and fighting government tyranny is also rubbish. I agree with Matthew White that the most likely outcome of a war between the Feds and the extreme right is that the extreme right is crushed like bugs, even before the network news anchors can move their mobile newsdesks, satellite link-ups and tactical hairdryers out to the battlefield. As I said in my Fear the Reaper post:

Μολὼν λάβε?
Εντάξει, με ευχαρίστηση!

Or in the way that pisses off the gun cretins, let’s just kill them and pry the guns from their fingers if that’s what they want. If these people are that stupid, they deserve to be removed from the gene pool. And they don’t have popular support which means most people would be happy if the government wasted them. I would have called in an air strikes on Ruby Ridge and Mount Carmel.

Whatever theoretical merit there may be to the argument that there is a “right” to rebellion against dictatorial governments is without force where the existing structure of the government provides for peaceful and orderly change.–Dennis v. United States, 341 U.S. 494 (1951)

The amount of defensive gun uses is highly overestimated
Oh, yeah don’t forget the study that says armed defenders are more likely to be killed or injured!

Sort of like Melanie Hain!

Why do you defend Michael Bellesiles?

Uh, it’s a tough job but someone out there needs to?

I met Michael when Arming America was still pretty hot stuff. I had read it and though it was an interesting read. I had heard the criticism about the probate records, but that is a very small part of Michael’s book.

Anyway, it seems that my posts on Bellesiles are the most visited of all my posts.

In 2002, Michael Zuckerman, professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania and a prominent Americanist, summed up the argument about Arming America this way: “The critics’ stuff on the probate inventories is bad news for Michael, but the book in no way depends on that. He’s got myriad arguments. If people are so crazy about guns, why are there so few gun sellers? So few gun manufacturers? Why do they need a government subsidy? The critics are casting about for a way to discredit him, and they have fixated on the probate inventories, which is crackpot. They have refused to confront the cumulative force and extent of the argument. In fact, the argument is splendid.”

Or to quote George M. Dennison

As every American historian knows (and knew), no guns were made in the colonies, and relatively few in the United States until well into the 19th century.

Quite frankly, I trust a University of Pennsylvania professor and head of a History department along with my own experience a whole lot more than some blowhard. Especially a blowhard who is guilty of the same crimes he attributes to Bellesiles.

Maybe it took a blowhard to spot the fraud that the blowhard is familiar from his own practise of historiography.

Anyway, just use the label Michael Bellesiles

Posted 28/11/2009 by lacithedog in Arming America, Michael Bellesiles

Am I writing propaganda?

Reading this definition:
Propaganda is a form of communication aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position. This is contrasted to impartially providing information.

Am I trying to influence people? Not really. I do this for myself. I don’t care if people read this, although I do have fans. In fact, I am very pleased with who my fans are! That’s part of the reason I blow off the booboisie.

I don’t worry about blog ranking, prizes, or any of that guff.

I am doing this to let off steam.

The other point is that I can’t persuade some people no matter how cogent my arguments. I could come up with the most definitive analysis of why the “individual rights” interpretation of the Second Amendment is bullshit, yet these people won’t accept it.

It’s the Michael Bellesiles/John Lott syndrome: Bellesiles is “all lies”, yet Lott is “gospel”.

Yeah, yeah, I still have more Michael Bellesiles apologia, but not here. The point I am making is that Bellesiles Arming America was trashed with a broad brush.

Somehow, I think reading Arming America is akin to having read The Satanic Verses. For those not in the know, The Satanic Verses was so hard to get through there was something called the “Page 19 Club” for anyone who could get past Page 19!

I am proud to say that I a member of that organisation!

On the other hand, I think a lot of people who trashed Arming America withouth having held a copy, let alone having read it.

And you are totally insane if you read all this post (not really)! But, it’s not propaganda!

More Guns, Less Crime???

I have been asking this question for quite some time: How can Michael Bellesiles be ripped to shreds for his book Arming America, yet we still see John Lott cited as authoritative about CCW reducing crime?

John Lott makes Bellesiles look honest as heck.

Tim Lambert catalogues Lott’s unethical behaviour. In fact, Lambert basically rips apart everything John Lott says.


From Mother Jones:

One of Michael Bellesiles’ most dogged critics, Northwestern University law professor James Lindgren, also prepared a report investigating Lott’s survey claims. “I have serious doubts whether he ever did the study,” says Lindgren, “and the only evidence that he’s brought forward for having done the study is ambiguous” — an NRA activist who claims to remember having been called and asked about defensive gun uses.

But many gun rights conservatives have taken a pass on the Lott issue. A glowing review of “The Bias Against Guns” in National Review — which made much hash of the Bellesiles affair — failed to mention Lott’s recent difficulties in corroborating the existence of his survey. “It’s so interesting that Michael Bellesiles gets hung from the highest tree, while Lott, if anything, he’s been more prominent in the last couple of months,” says Donohue.

The right has good reason to stick by Lott: “The entire ideology of the modern gun movement has basically been built around this guy,” says Saul Cornell, an Ohio State University historian who has written widely on guns. Over the years the pro-gun intellectual agenda has had two prongs: Defending a revisionist legal understanding of the Second Amendment in constitutional law, and refuting social scientists and public-health researchers who argue that the widespread availability of guns in America plays a key role in the nation’s staggering number of homicides and suicides. Without Lott’s work, the latter argument becomes much harder to make.

More conservative soul searching may result from a forthcoming National Academy of Sciences report from an expert panel dedicated to “Improving Research Information and Data on Firearms.” Scheduled for release in late fall, the panel’s report will address Lott’s work. Duke University economist Philip Cook, co-editor of the Brookings Institution book “Evaluating Gun Policy”, draws a historical analogy: In the late 1970s, after economist Isaac Ehrlich published a complex analysis supposedly proving that every execution in America deters about eight murders, the NAS released a devastating expert report debunking Ehrlich’s findings. The same thing could happen to Lott.

If it does, we can be reasonably sure of one thing: Lott will have a response ready. “Lott will never say, ‘that’s a good point.’ Lott will offer you some rebuttal,” says Georgetown gun policy expert Jens Ludwig. But if Lott won’t fully address the errors that undermine his thesis, it may fall to someone else — his conservative peers, the American Enterprise Institute, perhaps — to step in and do it for him.

Posted 22/10/2009 by lacithedog in John Lott, Michael Bellesiles