This is probably the most asked question. What made me decide to get a gun, and have I prepaired for the risks involved in gun ownership. I think to appropriately answer both questions I need to provide a bit of background.
I had very little experience with guns when I was young. In fact, half of the experiences I did have were negative, so I was in no way a gun freak/nut/thumper... In fact, I'd later discover that I actually had a fear of guns, unbeknownst to me.
I was a believer in the 2nd amendment because I knew history. I knew that Hitler rolled over so many European countries because they offered little to no resistance due to the fact that they were mostly disarmed by their government. I knew that when asked about invading America's west coast in world war two Japan's Admiral Yamamoto is reputed to have said, "You cannot invade America. There is a rifle behind every blade of grass." I knew by reading the Franklin letters that the point of the 2nd amendment wasn't for hunters, it was to protect civilians from a tyrannical government, and to remind the government that citizens of America will never be disarmed and overthrown. I knew that it was our freedoms that made us a strong people, a people who turned a very young nation into arguably the most powerful nation on the planet. I also knew that bad people have guns, and if good people didn't have them to level the playing field, things would be very different in this nation.
But that just makes me a 2nd amendment promoter, not a gun owner.
During the Katrina situation, I saw the worst in people; robbing, looting, raping, murdering, but I also saw some great people who stood up when the police didn't (and wouldn't). They stood up against those awful people, and protected their families and their neighbors. With guns.
Living in southern California along a fault line, which (everyone agrees) is LONG overdue for the "big one," the idea of being left high and dry in the event of a natural disaster seemed like a sobering prospect. As to police protection; remember the LA riots? Police fought valiantly to protect the city? Nope. There were too many rioters and the police literally stepped back and let them have control of the city for days until it burned itself out. Unbelievable. The world was rapidly becoming a more dangerous place. Well, not really, it was already dangerous, I was just naive.
I looked into the future, and saw my family, and looked at my girlfriend (mostly fiance), and knew that I had things to protect.
But I still wasn't decided. I thought I was being a little cynical to think that the police can't protect me at all. So I started talking to my police friends and family members... Wow. I didn't believe it, and wound up searching the net for a long time to find people denying these statements, but only found agreements. The police DO NOT, and WILL NOT "protect" you. The supreme court has found that the police are NOT liable to provide you with protection. This means that if you call 911, and they never come, it's not their fault. Not to mention that response times can vary from 5 minutes to 5 hours in busy areas (or even if areas become busy as the result of a disaster of some sort). If there's a natural disaster and widespread looting and violence, you can NOT count on the police to help. Try to find out how many police are employed by your city, then find out the population of your city. Now do your county. The police are outnumbered, and overworked without the added strain of a disaster of some sort. I'm not just saying these things. They're true. Don't trust me, get the numbers and see for yourself just how safe you are.
For more info on how the police can't and won't protect you check an earlier post here, or just google it.
I feel it's worth touching briefly on the notion that you can simply run away from your attacker. Assuming you aren't protecting your children, know your surroundings perfectly, can outrun a rapist or murderer, aren't disabled in any way, have already called the police, and know the attacker is working alone, you may have a chance. If people could simply run away from their attackers, there would be no victims of violent crimes. Since that is not the case, I think we can assume that "just run away" isn't the correct answer.
After all this, I realized that I should have a gun. I then started a long process of researching, testing, and buying my first handgun. In the process of researching my first handgun purchase, and in the weeks following my purchase I came across lots of other information. Most bothersome of which was the fact that a handgun is not very effective in combat. People type for pages about stopping power of this caliber versus that caliber and muzzle velocity for this round versus that round, but the simple fact remained. Handguns are not very effective, and are hard to use. Firing a handgun accurately takes lots of practice and training. But even after you've mastered your handgun, and can place three shots into a nickle at 50 feet in under a second from a standing position, a handgun's energy output is FAR less than that of a rifle or shotgun, and its effective range is still FAR shorter than that of a rifle. I know that most gun encounters take place within 5 feet, and take less than 5 seconds, but in an instance where you are protecting an area (your home, your neighborhood), or simply don't want to have to shoot someone four times to make sure they are neutralized, rifles and shotguns are the undisputed masters.
Just as you wouldn't bring a knife to a gunfight (as the saying goes), you shouldn't bring a handgun to a gun fight. Rifles and shotguns are 10 times easier to use than a handgun, and are 100 times more effective. Even in the hands of someone untrained. Pistols are hard to use effectively, and are not effective people-stoppers. The only advantage handguns have is portability. In a situation where you are not concerned with concealing a weapon on your person, IE: there's an intruder in your home, handguns lose their only advantage instantly. As an aside, the absolute best anti-crime device is the sound of shotgun being racked. The only thing that will stop a criminals faster is if you pointed it at them and pulled the trigger on some double aught buckshot.
I began to see gun ownership not as a choice, but a duty. Our founding fathers knew that an armed people are a free people. Countless studies find that more guns mean less crime. And if you've decided you need to arm yourself to protect your loved ones, you have a duty to arm yourself with the most effective tools available to you.
The dangers. Ah the dangers. Everyone always wants to remind you of the dangers. To those who say that guns are dangerous I ask that you support this site http://www.assaultweaponwatch.com the people here are dedicated to protect our children from the dangers of evil guns. Or perhaps they're providing a stinging satire; I can't remember. There is no doubt that guns can be dangerous in malicious or untrained hands. Therefore, a responsible gun owner MUST educate those with access to the guns (including children of age), and a responsible gun owner MUST store their guns safely. To me, the idea of gun locks is silly, as most locks are easily opened (I'm a novice lock picking enthusiast, and am well versed in the shortcomings of most locks), and they will not prevent the gun from being taken and becoming a danger to others. A safe is the only way to go. Otherwise, remove an important part (or otherwise disable it), and store it separate from the locked gun. I am, of course, referring to guns that are not being employed in protecting your home, and need not be ready at a moment's notice. I won't say that a loaded gun with children home is a good idea, though it's the most effective. I also feel reluctant to apply a lock to a gun that is being used to protect your family. Maybe some form of quick safe like the small under-the-bed safes that hold one handgun, and use a push-button combination to open, so they can be opened quickly in the dark, except for shotguns... I dunno. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
I know that guns aren't for everyone, and that some people are fearful of them (as I was), but I beg you, PLEASE get some form of basic handgun training. It's not that expensive, and you will never know when you may use the experience! A gun (especially a handgun) in untrained hands IS DANGEROUS to everyone within range! I know the movies make it look easy, but believe me, it's a difficult skill to master, and a trial by fire is not the way you want to learn to save the lives of your loved ones.
Remember, a 3 minute 911 response time may seem fast now, but just wait until someone's two kicks away from breaking in your door.