The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) today hailed a decision by Columbia University to revoke its prestigious Bancroft Prize from discredited author Michael A. Bellesiles.

SAF had earlier called on the university to strip Bellesiles of the award, after his controversial book Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture, was found to be loaded with inaccuracies and obvious fabrications. An independent review of the book, which had been heralded by anti-gunners in academia and the press, resulted in Bellesile’s resignation from the faculty at Emory University in Georgia;

SAF Founder Alan Gottlieb noted, “Instead of being a monumental expose of the so-called ‘gun culture,’ Arming America turned out to be a monumental fraud. Several weeks ago, we called upon Columbia to take the appropriate action and strip its important award from Bellesiles. To the university’s credit, that has finally happened.

SAF Public Affairs Director Dave LaCourse concurred. He stated, “The Second Amendment, its meaning and its origin, are subjects of serious debate. To create such a serious hoax, as Bellesiles did with Arming America, using flawed research and manufactured evidence, is an insult to genuine scholars, and all Americans.

“What was most disturbing about this controversy,” LaCourse added, “is that Columbia University and the anti-gun media were so quick to accept this fraud. Throw out even the most incredulous anti-gun hype, and the media and many anti-gun academics will rush to embrace it as Gospel. Offer serious research supporting a strong, pro-gun philosophy, and those same so-called authorities will typically pass it off as fantasy.

“Because of the revelations about Arming America,” LaCourse said, “we hope the Organization of American Historians, which gave Bellesiles the Binkley-Stephenson award for his 1996 article on America’s gun culture, will re-examine that decision as well.”

Gottlieb said the Columbia University Board of Trustees made the right decision, and he realizes it was not an easy one for them to reach. However, he scolded the University for its initial haste in declaring Arming America to be the kind of landmark work deserving of such recognition.

“By withdrawing the Bancraft Prize from Prof. Bellesiles,” Gottlieb observed, “Columbia is acknowledging that it was fooled. But the university might have saved itself considerable embarrassment, had it been as slow in its rush to initial judgment about Arming America as it has been in revoking the award.”

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