Here's an answer (you'll be able to intuit the question) that sometimes comes up in discussions with my students:
"I will not discuss whether or not there are firearms in my home, because it's none of your damn business. However, I will tell you this. Should someone break into my house, where my wife, my three children, one grandchild, and three cats live with me, I will do my dead level best to kill them before they can harm my family. I will take such reasonable precautions as seem to me to be sensible in the context of the moment to insure that they have not broken into my house by mistake, but the ruling idea behind my decision-making will be the safety of my family and not the life of the intruder."
I'm sure that, like my students, some of you are taken aback by that blunt statement. On the other hand, I am equally sure that many of you know exactly what I am talking about.
Lee, over at A Secondhand Conjecture, has a post about the cultural gap between Americans and Britons on the issue of defending your home. It seems that in Britain, defending your home is not only more difficult (since the criminals have the government's assurance that you do not possess firearms) than here, but is--in most cases--actually illegal.
Over the past few years, social conservatives have demonized Europe in terms of politics, social programs, and foreign policy.
Now, as the Bush administration is safely into its last year, Liberals and Progressives are reacting to the far opposite end of the spectrum, idealizing European politics, social programs, and foreign policy.
Both approaches are a mistake. Europe does not exist as an archetype--good or bad--by which to measure America's worth. Using European examples to prove that single-payer health care, firearm confiscation policies, or educational practices are the correct future road for America is a misguided exercise.
Our country differs from Europe in terms of culture, environment, natural resources, national history, population demographics, and dozens of other variables. What works there will not necessarily work here (and vice versa).
So let's hope that over the next four years we are not going to continue to have to listen to people tell us how much more like Europe we should want our country to become.
Why don't we just concentrate on building the best US we can--on our own terms?