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A conversation about gun ownership

By ZOË WATKINS - zwatkins@t-g.com
Posted 7/1/23

With gun violence on many peoples’ minds and with red flag laws a highly debated topic, what is the fine line between gun ownership, availability, and safety?

Bo Gill, chair of the Bedford …

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A conversation about gun ownership


With gun violence on many peoples’ minds and with red flag laws a highly debated topic, what is the fine line between gun ownership, availability, and safety?

Bo Gill, chair of the Bedford County Republican Party and a self-described “amateur gunsmith,” explained some of the main features of different types of firearms and current regulations.

“I don’t think people think about how precious and delicate our country’s freedom is. We could lose it, and we want to hold on to that. When our framers of our Constitution came up with the Second Amendment, they saw what could happen without it,” said Gill.

The basics

Many are familiar with basic weapons handguns, rifles, shotguns, and machine guns.

Gill said firearms are broadly categorized into two main types: automatic and semi-automatic. The difference lies in their firing mechanisms, which significantly impact their functionality and practical applications.

Semi-automatic firearms are designed to fire one round with each pull of the trigger. After firing, the expended cartridge is ejected, and a fresh round is automatically loaded into the firing chamber for the next shot. Unlike automatic firearms, the trigger must be released and pulled again to fire subsequent rounds.

For reference, the transgender shooter at The Covenant School used a semi-automatic, which is the most common type used for recent mass shootings.

“Any semi-automatic firearm cannot be readily converted into an automatic firearm,” though bump stocks, which the 2016 Las Vegas shooter used, can mimic an automatic.

Automatic firearms, commonly known as machine guns, are capable of firing rounds continuously as long as the trigger remains depressed. These firearms use the energy from each fired round to automatically load and fire subsequent rounds without the need for additional manual manipulation.

Often automatic weapons are $10,000 and up and not readily available in gun stores but are available online.

However, like some gun owners, Gill agrees, “I don’t think automatic firearms have a place anywhere but war. They’re not practical and they’re a waste of ammo.”

There is also much discussion around “military-style” weapons.

Gill explains, “Visual resemblances do not necessarily indicate an increase in functionality or lethality beyond that of other semi-automatic firearms.”

Military-style firearms, also referred to as "assault weapons," feature certain cosmetic characteristics that resemble firearms used by military or law enforcement agencies. These features can include folding or collapsible stocks, pistol grips, flash suppressors, and detachable magazines, among others.

Then there are genuine firearms that come in a multitude of designs and models, serving various purposes such as self-defense, sport shooting, hunting, and collecting.

Gill explained, in an opinion letter he wrote in 2020, that, “It is important to evaluate the firearm's functional characteristics rather than solely relying on its appearance to determine its intended purpose or danger level.

He said, “The main thing is the guns are not the issue. It’s the intent, the person that does it.”

“Now the ease of mentally ill getting a gun, it could be tightened.” Gill added, “I think private sales is something that could be done more responsibility.”

He explained those purchasing firearms in private sales are asked for the receipt, name, and number. This information is then run through the sheriff’s office.

“That is what a law-abiding citizen should do,” said Gill. “But, see, that’s not going to happen with ‘no guns allowed.’ All the responsible gun owners are going to put their guns back and that’s going to create soft targets.”

Often, places that do not allow for guns on the premises, such as schools, some churches, and movie theatres, are the targets of mass shootings.

“I don’t think the solution is taking away guns. It’s a societal issue that independent families have to fix,” said Gill.


Machines guns, sub-machine guns, AOWs (any other weapons), short-barreled rifles, and suppressors are all highly-regulated.

For example, for a machine gun, you have to be 21 years of age to purchase with a clean record. Then you have to use a Class III dealer who deals under the regulations of the National Firearms Act of 1934. You then have to complete a “Form 4” and apply for a tax transfer (which is usually a stamp). This costs around $200 and was implemented in the 1930s to discourage people from buying them.

Gill said this cost hasn’t been adjusted to today, so it may be one way to further regulate today’s purchases. In 1934, $200 is equivalent to about $4,500 today.

In addition to a thorough background check, fingerprints and a photo then have to be sent to the sheriff’s department.

Once all this is submitted, it can often take up to over a year before the buyer receives the weapon.

“I think that’s the whole problem that they stand on—that we’re for guns over safety. And that’s not what it is…It’s not that we will just give them away for the kids. We want to protect kids, and I think responsible gun ownership is the main thing for that.”

Gill said it also starts with educating children about guns, something he practices in his family. “I think we need to be educated and not scared of guns,” said Gill. “When I turned 10, I got a .410 shotgun. We had to go through hunter safety classes. It was a sin if you didn’t have your barrel towards the ground or up. Got reprimanded so many times, and rightfully so.”

Gill said that even if more anti-gun laws were enacted, a person with intent would still find a way around the law.

“I think that all should be able to defend themselves. Just like the Second Amendment says, you have a right to bear arms. But with rights, you also have to abide within the laws. If you don’t abide by the laws or you’re a criminal, your right gets suppressed,” said Gill.

“When you have a firearm, it’s not just another thing. It is a lethal weapon and it has to be respected.”