Every law abiding American citizen has the right to own firearms.
This basic right is engraved into our society through the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution:
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
The right to bear arms is not really in dispute. Any person with a clear mind understands that the right to bear arms is fundamental to the defense of liberty. If the only people who can legally possess firearms are those employed by the government, than people have no physical protection against that government. The people would also have little to no protection against an armed criminal whom government law enforcement has failed to remove from the general population.
The right to defend your home, your family and your life is indisputable in a democratic, free society. The means you use to defend yourself must not be unreasonably restricted, otherwise, your ability to defend yourself may be compromised.
The question of gun control in American politics has always come down to that word "reasonable." No one wants to see people mounting .50 caliber M2 machine guns in their front windows or walking the streets with AK-47s and Uzis. The debate comes down to a question of where you draw the line between a simple pistol and a high caliber killing machine. At what point does a self defense firearm turn into an instrument of horror that is so powerful, no one outside the military should own or operate it in the civilian world? Where does your freedom to own firearms intersect with government's responsibility to protect its citizens from violent crime?
Liberty and personal responsibility are co-equal concepts. A truly free society is only possible when free individuals come together to make laws that reflect their responsibilities to avoid harming each other. Without responsibility enforced by society through law and enforced by independent courts, one person's exercise of freedom could easily take away from another person's rights. Government's role is not to restrict people from taking certain actions; rather, it's to craft reasonable laws that lay out the responsibilities an individual has to others while exercising their guaranteed freedoms.
On the issue of guns, the U.S. federal government has done a better job in recent years of guaranteeing free citizens the right to purchase and carry firearms. However, it has not done a good job of articulating the responsibilities of gun owners, sellers or manufacturers. The feds have also done a poor job articulating the rights of gun violence victims, whose personal liberty has been violated in a most fundamental way.
Each state has to address the gun issue in its own way, but the federal government would not get much push back if it suggested a minimum level of training necessary to acquire various firearm licenses ranging from simple pistols to more advanced semi-automatic rifles. Most gun owners would not mind owning a title to their firearms the same way they own a title to their car. Everyone purchasing a firearm should be willing to submit to a background check paid at their expense the same way it is done in Chicago when you apply to a landlord for an apartment. No law abiding citizen would have any problem with simple regulations like these as long as it does not interfere with their simple right to own, possess and carry a firearm for protection.
Simple regulations that are easy to follow for the law abiding citizen while also making it easier to prosecute violent offenders are "reasonable." When a 7-year-old girl is shot in the back in Chicago, not only do I want the criminal who pulled the trigger arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of criminal law, I want the family of the victim to be able to pursue the offender further into civil law. If the gun used in the assault has a title and thus an owner, that person should be financially liable for the actions taken with the weapon, even if they are not the one who pulled the trigger.
Gun owners are generally very responsible people. They acquire training and licenses long before bringing home their first gun. They handle their weapons carefully and secure them whenever they are not in use. The fact that they legally own a firearm is evidence that they take self-defense very seriously. We do not want to take away the rights of these responsible people because a handful of violent criminals abuse such rights. If anything, we want to make sure more responsible people are trained in the use of debilitating or deadly force to protect themselves from such monsters. As responsible people, gun owners are willing to live with simple regulations that make it easier to convict or bankrupt violent criminals and their accomplices. Put forward legislation that achieves this end and bipartisan support will be easy.
Liberals who think that simply making something illegal, makes it go away are dangerously naive. The Latin Kings are not just going to give up their semi-automatics and stop buying new ones because Congress passes a law that says they are illegal. A psychopath hell bent on killing people will find a way to do so regardless of any laws in place.
I don't pretend to have the perfect piece of gun legislation that preserves all our 2nd Amendment rights while providing the legal system tools to properly punish violent criminals. I don't have a magic bullet for keeping guns out of the hands of violent thugs. However, any conversation that starts with making certain non-military grade firearms illegal is one doomed to failure.
Ending senseless gun crime requires instilling a greater sense of the responsibility that must accompany a liberty society. Trying to ban guns is merely turning a blind eye to the widening gap between liberty and responsibility. Closing that gap is very hard work and requires government facilitation; but, if accomplished, will do more to reduce violent crime than any gun ban ever could.