Letter: On the state, federal constitutions, and ‘assault weapons’

Posted 2/8/24

To the editor:

Mr. Kossak’s letter of Feb. 1 on the subject of assault weapons bans (“ Vote to ban ‘assault rifles’ would be totally unnecessary ”) deserves further …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Register to post events

If you'd like to post an event to our calendar, you can create a free account by clicking here.

Note that free accounts do not have access to our subscriber-only content.

Day pass subscribers

Are you a day pass subscriber who needs to log in? Click here to continue.

Letter: On the state, federal constitutions, and ‘assault weapons’


To the editor:

Mr. Kossak’s letter of Feb. 1 on the subject of assault weapons bans (“Vote to ban ‘assault rifles’ would be totally unnecessary”) deserves further discussion. He made two points: one concerning the U.S. and Rhode Island constitutions, the other concerning the definition of “assault weapon.”

On the first point, the first clause of the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution states that a well-regulated militia is necessary, but does not specify who is charged with regulating that militia. The second clause says that no regulation is allowed. 

That seems to contradict the first clause. Taking the text as a whole, the first question I would ask a dedicated 2nd Amendment fundamentalist is which well-regulated militia he belongs to. Mr. Justice Thomas has sorted this out by deciding that the first clause is irrelevant, which is an odd position for an “originalist” to take. The Rhode Island Constitution doesn’t have that first clause, and I’m not the legal scholar to answer which would take precedence in the event of a change in the SCOTUS decision.

Concerning the definition of an assault rifle, it’s not quite as subjective as Mr. Kossak suggests. Hunters don’t “assault” game animals in the way that a light-weapons infantry squad assaults an enemy position. The purpose of an assault weapon is to put as much metal down range as possible in the shortest amount of time, with the express purpose of injuring as many people as possible. This suggests a semi-automatic weapon, high-capacity magazine, gas-operated, with a bullet designed to damage as much flesh as possible. The exit wound of a 5.56mm NATO round is a horrible sight. 

In contrast, a hunter wants to kill one beast, as quickly as possible, while damaging as little flesh as possible, and strives to use one shot and make it count. (The individual engaged in self-defense has an entirely different set of requirements, and is more likely to want a handgun.)

Weapons design is always evolving, so whatever definition is used in a law, the profiteers in the arms industry will work to find a way around it.

Clay Commons

22 Bayside Ave.


2024 by East Bay Media Group

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.