BELLESILES UPDATE: Well, it’s really a Garry Wills update. Northwestern University professor Jim Lindgren sends the following on Garry Wills, who has apparently disavowed Arming America in scholarly settings, but not in public:
The continued criticism of Garry Wills for not changing his mind on Arming America may be somewhat off base. Wills was approached about a panel on the Arming America controversy to be held at the Criminology meetings next fall in Chicago. In response to the organizers’ request for him to appear or to suggest another defender of the book, Wills replied by email in March with only four words: ‘no one defends it.’ In April when I spoke briefly with Wills at a campus lecture (we are Northwestern University colleagues, though I have met him only twice), I asked Wills what his current view of Arming America was. His reply was blunt and used harsher language in its negative assessment of the book than anything that Randy Roth, Joyce Malcolm, Gloria Main, Robert Churchill, Eric Monkkonen, Randy Barnett, Eugene Volokh, or I have said in any of our public statements. From his two recent statements, it appears that Wills is like several historians who have changed their positions on Arming America and have said so (apparently on the record) to scholars involved in the controversy, but who are not yet willing to discuss their current views fully with the press. Just because Wills has not been as public in his statements as former Bellesiles’ supporters Roger Lane, Don Hickey, and Sandy Levinson does not mean that he still supports Arming America. One should recognize that most historians’ views on the book did not gel until after the William and Mary Quarterly forum came out in late February.
Um, okay. Perhaps some intrepid reporter should call him up and give him the opportunity to speak on the public record. Or he could simply write a short addendum to his glowing New York Times review of Bellesiles’ book.