The picture of gun ownership that emerges from these analyses directly contradicts the assertions of Michael Bellesiles in Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture (2000). Contrary to Arming America's claims about probate inventories in 17th and 18th century America, there were high numbers of guns, guns were much more common than swords or other edge weapons, women in 1774 owned guns at rates (18%) higher than Bellesiles claimed men did in 1765-90 (14.7%), and 83-91% of gun-owning estates listed at least one gun that was not old or broken. The authors replicated all the portions of Bellesiles' published study where he both counted guns in probate inventories and cited sources containing inventories. They conclude that Bellesiles appears to have substantially misrecorded or misremembered the 17th and 18th century probate data he presents.
Date of this Version
James T. Lindgren and Justin Lee Heather, "Counting Guns in Early America" (June 2001). Law and Economics Papers. Working Paper 42.