I bought my first pistol when I was in middle school. It was a Remington cap-and-ball kit, so I had to put it together myself. Couldn't believe it when the shop owner sold it to me, but maybe it was legal because it was a kit? Not sure.
I've spent more time hunting and target practicing than in probably any other single hobby I've had.
I've pulled a pistol in self defence - successfully, obviously - twice in my life.
The three long ones and the three short ones at the top were mine until several years ago, when I sold them. I gave one to my friend, who owns the others in the photo:
I got a concealed carry permit in TN. Went to a half-day "class," after which we had to take a test. The obnoxious, wanna-be hardass instructor walked around and told the dumbasses the correct answer when they couldn't remember. Then in the afternoon there was the firing range qualification, during which if you could hit paper a few times from not much more than a car's length away, you qualified. Paid about $100 and walked away with the permit.
On a trip to MS to visit above-mentioned friend, got pulled over by a cop, who said that there's not even a test in that state. Pay your money and get your permit. No questions asked.
But times change and I'm no longer the socially isolated country boy. What I think now? Guns are at least as potentially lethal as cars in the wrong hands. To own a gun, you should at least have as much training as it takes to get a driver's license, and actually much more, in my opinion. A psychological profile should be mandatory, in addition to the criminal records check.
Why not ban firearms altogether tomorrow, then? Well, this is just a political reality. The 2nd Amendment is there. Given the strength of the opposition, it would be political suicide to push for a nationwide ban. Politicians are not known for voluntarily falling on the sword in favor of what makes sense. And given the depth to which the gun culture is embedded in American traditions, and given the ready availability of metal working tools, people would just start manufacturing them in their basements. And I'm not just talking about backwoods yee-haws, either.
As far as I can tell, the best we can hope for is a gradual push towards more effective and stringent screening policies. We'll be lucky if we get that, to be honest. But we have to try. Ultra-conservatives aren't affected much by logic, after all. They have entrenched themselves in ideological rhetoric, and no number of mass killings will penetrate that shell. After all, they don't really give a **** about anybody but themselves and their traditions, do they?