Part 10 Michael A. Bellesiles: Mega Anti-Gun-Nut

Larry Pratt

One of the ways Michael A. Bellesiles’ book Arming America has acquired credibility is — sad to say — by assigning it to reviewers who hadn’t the foggiest idea what they were writing about. A case in point is the review (3/21/2001) by Walter Wink in the ultra-Liberal Christian Century magazine. Wink is a professor of New Testament at the Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City.

In his review Wink hails Bellesiles’ book as “an historical tour de force” based on “painstaking and compendious research” that “exposes the myths that have elevated the gun to its unique place in American life — and death.” He says “turning aside from our enthrallment with guns will require a spirituality of nonviolence, a willingness to turn in our guns…. If we do our work well, perhaps Bellesiles’ future book can be titled Disarming America.”

Curious as to how much Wink really knows about the subject of the Bellesiles book, we interviewed him. Well, no, he says, he is not familiar with any of the scholarly criticisms of Arming America. None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. And no, he says, he is not any kind of an expert on guns in America. He says he was assigned the book because he has done “a lot of work on non-violence.”

OK. So, how does Wink know the book is true? How does he know if Bellesiles has accurately used probate records and other sources he cites? Well, he says, he found the book was “internally consistent.” Thus, Bellesiles’ use of records was “convincing.”

    Q: “But, in fact, you have no idea, do you, if Bellesiles accurately reports on the more than 11,000 probate records he says he examined?”

    A: “No. You’d have to spend several years [to check this].”

When asked if he is serious about everybody having a willingness to turn in their guns?, Wink says yes, he is. Does he really think criminals would turn in their guns? Wink replies:

    In England it’s now a felony to be in possession of a gun. And therefore any who’s arrested or stopped even, and has a gun, is arrested. And that has lowered the gun-death rate considerably and has proven to be a very effective way of disarming a public. Now, this is very hard to do of course.

When told that England’s violent crime rate is now higher than America’s, Wink says, incredibly: “That is not true. You just made that statement up.” But, this statement is true. It is not made up.

The London Daily Mail newspaper says (2/23/2001) that, according to an international crime report, Britain “has a higher crime rate than any other rich nation except Australia.” According to this crime report, 3.6 percent of the population of England and Wales were victims of violent crime in 1999; in the U.S. only two percent of the population suffered an assault or robbery. British Home Secretary Jack Straw is quoted as saying: “Levels of victimization are higher here than in most comparable countries for most categories of crime.”

As for gun-crime, the British The Observer newspaper has reported (12/31/2000):

    Gun crime in Britain is soaring to record levels: executions, woundings and related incidents in the past year are set to be the highest ever, an investigation by The Observer has revealed…. The true figures could be even higher because victims of many of the most violent gun crimes are reluctant to involve the authorities…. The use of guns outside the big towns and cities is rising too…. The number of illegally held guns is estimated at three million. As handguns can no longer be bought or sold legally, the police believe the vast majority of those coming on to the market have been smuggled from abroad.

So much for Walter Wink’s absurd, idiotic and dangerous view that gun control in England has been a “very effective way” of lowering the gun-death rate and of “disarming a public.” As always, everywhere, every time, in England, gun-control has disarmed only law-abiding citizens leaving them helpless against criminals who will always get guns.

In our interview, when Wink was asked if he knew that millions of Americans use guns in self-defense every year, he said yes, he knows this.

    Q: “So, why should these Americans have to turn in their guns?”

    A: “One thing is being in possession of a gun raises the possibility of your getting killed.”

    Q: “Says who?”

    A: “The information on that I can’t recall right now….”

    Q: “So, who should we give our guns to?”

    A: “The local police.”

    Q: “So you’re for banning private ownership of all guns?”

    A: “I — let’s see, I, I prefer the English method.”

When told that that was a distinction without a difference, Wink hung up the phone. When faced with the facts, Wink blinked.