Professor Larson Interviewed on Second Amendment by Capital Public Radio
Professor Carlton Larson was interviewed at length regarding the Second Amendment for the January 16 edition of Capital Public Radio station KXJZ's news talk program Insight. Over the course of the interview, Professor Larson touched on the history and meaning of each phrase of the amendment, and discussed how its language has been interpreted by opposing sides in the debate over gun control.
Professor Larson cautioned against using history as a means of deciding modern constitutional issues, since many of the problems we face today would have been inconceivable to the Framers of the Constitution. For example, James Madison could never have conceived of someone attacking school children with an assault rifle, he said. "The discussions we're having right now about the current problems really are modern discussions about modern problems, and history can shed some light on this, but it usually doesn't answer the questions directly," said Larson.
Professor Larson also talked about the Second Amendment's reference to "a well-regulated militia," which he said "relates to the idea that the heart of national defense really should be the militia, rather than a standing army."
"People have looked at this phrase and said what it means is that it's the way for the people to defend themselves against our own government-that if our government became despotic or tyrannical, the people would overthrow their own government," said Larson. "Well, there's not a lot of historical evidence supporting that particular interpretation. It seems more likely it's about foreign enemies, not our own government, and certainly in our modern era the likelihood of any individual being able to prevail over the weaponry of the federal government is zero. "
Carlton Larson's research interests focus on constitutional law and legal history, with a strong emphasis on the 18th century.