10/27/00

Professor Questions U.S. History of Owning Weapons

Americans' love of guns is deeply embedded in our history; at least, that's what most of us assume. We believe that every Colonial home proudly displayed a gun above the mantle and that guns were essential both for hunting and protection in the settling of the Western frontier.

But what if these assumptions are all wrong? What if our ideas about the central role guns played in our early history are actually the stuff of myth, a fiction circulated in popular mass media and advertising during the late 1800s?

This is the argument made by Dr. Michael Bellesiles, a professor of history at Emory University and the author of Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture. The Deptments of Communication and History are sponsoring a talk by Dr. Bellesiles on Tuesday, Oct. 31 at 4 p.m. in the Signal Mountain Room of the UTC University Center.

Bellesiles will speak about what he sees as a myth, that most Americans had guns in the early history of the U.S. and that guns played a central role in our country's early development. He challenges popular interpretations of the meaning and intent of the Second Amendment, and he makes an interesting argument about the role of the mass media, (including pulp novels and advertising) in the creation of the myths supporting America's so-called gun culture.

NRA members and gun-control opponents are among those who have taken issue with the author's stand.

Bellesiles will also share some insights about the impact of the Internet in mobilizing support for social movements.

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