The effectiveness of guns, like that of any means of self-defense, is highly situationally specific.
Very true. However, anyone who is conscious about their safety (women in crime-riddled urban areas, perhaps), make sure to keep themselves in situations where their preferred method of self defense is viable.
Unless you were hoping to escape from him, then run to your bedroom, get the gun, load it, and manage to shoot the guy before he's on top of you again.
It's called a quicksafe or a slip, I have several. I can retrieve a gun from them in less than 2 seconds. For that matter, I keep my sidearm and "defense gun" (next to the front door, in a disguised quicksafe permanently attached to a small knick-knack table which is in itself permanently attached to the floor) fully loaded and ready to fire. And before you bring up the safety argument, keeping a snake or trigger locked handgun/rifle/shogun in a safe when you would intend on using it for self defense should the need arise is just plain stupid. If someone has defeated the first and second safety mechanisms (your presence, and your SAFE respectively), the third and fourth safety mechanisms are pointless, they already have access to the weapon.
Or do you load a couple rounds and have your gun in hand every time the doorbell rings?//...// Of course you don't, but then there goes its self-defense effectiveness.
Or like me, you keep it HOLSTERED (The holster is probably the most important gun safety device in use today). As a CCW holder, I can tell you as someone who usually doesn't undress until bed, I can keep even a full sized M1911A1 (my carry weapon) holstered, concealed, and at that even comfortably, myself at a whopping 175 lb, at 5'10" and a little bit of muscle to me. You have to be willing to wear a cover garment in the summer--in my case a Johnny Max 3-button breasted vest (not a hunting vest, a suit vest, classy yet fashionable given the current punk trend)--but it can be done if you keep your head about you. In my case even trained eyes don't scream "COVER GARMENT!" when I'm about town, they think I'm just another skinny college kid.
//Really? Do you leave your gun with bullets in it, lying around where your toddler can grab it readily?//
In all honesty I don't even know what to say to this, I've had the full 9 yards about this discussed with the type of people who were inclined to spit in my face just for voting McCain (and some have), and even they didn't say stupid things like this.
And if you wear your gun when you answer the door, and the guy on the other side means you harm, you'd better hope you can get the shot off before he's on you, because when he sees that gun he is not going to back down while you're conscious enough to shoot him in the back.
Unless the attacker is a hired hitman or someone trained to kill (I.E Military, Police, or Mall Ninja) this will not come to fruition. I've only ever made potential attackers aware of my gun, I've never had to draw. Unless you're dealing with multiple attackers or a trained killer, most critters are predators of opportunity and tend to work like electricity, they follow the path of least resistance. They're looking for an easy score, and the SERIOUS probability of death is not something they want to deal with. In the three instances in which I felt threatened enough to reach for my gun, it was the mere sight of blued steel that sparked a spontaneous dust trail as the would be attackers bolted. For your average citizen against your average crook which turns out to be about %90 of potential self defense situations the mere presence of a gun on the would be victim is all it takes to deescalate the situation almost instantly. For those that realize the fact that three instances in a lifetime is pretty high when I can pass for a college student: you're right, that is high. I happen to live in a bad area of town, I also happen to be white and wearing nice clothes (read: not $250 jeans, but nice enough to assume I've got cash). I've managed to perfect the look that gets the beggars and addicts to leave me alone, but for some reason I look like a perfect score to gang bangers and muggers.
As an aside, in the crook-at-the-door situation, that door is an EXTREME advantage on your part, it's easy to brace a door against entry, extremely hard to break down a braced door. Considering the state of construction in this country, even an underpowered 9MM could easily punch through your door and do damage to the attacker on the other side. Brace the door and put a couple of rounds angled downward (don't want the round going across the street and hitting a bystander in case of over-penetration) at neck height, and you've got a dead attacker. Now this situation this might change, if you were in an apartment building, you might want to pick underpowered JHP rounds to ensure noone in an adjacent apartment gets harmed, and aim in the safest direction while still putting a round through the attacker. There are ways to live life and have fun while still be conscious about your safety and your person, even in the worst ghettos of any given city.
I don't think guns are evil. I believe everyone should know how to shoot and how to handle a firearm, and I absolutely would want a gun in an obviously threatening situation where the firearm is ready and the violence is foreseeable (say, a riot down the street, or a war zone). I just understand that guns are far less effective in realistic self-defense situations than hoplomaniacs believe.
Consider the numbers. Guns have been used in self defense successfully 100 times more than they've been used in committing a crime this year. That's a conservative estimate considering none of the final numbers have been tallied, and won't be until about February next year, but http://actionamerica.org/guns/gun-web-widget.shtml this has been pretty dead on accurate for the couple of years I've been keeping track of it. In general, you see at least a million or so incidents of guns being used successfully in self defense (without convictions on the part of the victim, which can happen in hoplophobic states like new york and california, especially when the criminal being shot by the victim is a minority), with the gun ownership rate in the country growing a steady percent or two, with the violent crime rate going down that same percent or two. I poll my data from the CDC reports, FBI bi-annual crime reports, and some of the aggregated national studies performed by some of the more respected universities like Carnegie-Melon and Brown.
If anything would've kept the victim safer, it'd be having a big dog. Doesn't have to be a particularly vicious breed, just faithful and over fifty pounds. I can only chuckle at what would've happened if this goon had tried to pull a stunt like this near my stepmother's Lab.
I agree wholeheartedly with you on the dog for home defense part, although I will say your standards are a little to heavy. I have a 30 lb. Pembroke Welsh Corgi that stands all of a whopping 11 inches tall, that I've personally witnessed chase a 250 lb mail man down the street, with tears strolling down his face.
In the end, it comes down to how serious someone is about keeping safe and unharmed. The most successful form of self defense--the martial arts--mandate and require PRACTICE and THOUGHT. If you're conscious enough to be considering the use of deadly force in a self defense situation (which a gun IS), you better be willing to prepare a plan, a course of action, a practice regimen, and a mindset. Speak with your loved ones, come up with a plan for the most likely contingencies you can think of. If you decide to use a firearm, practice with it. Go to the range, practice at aiming, reloading, off-handed of the aforementioned, and of course gun safety. Teach your wife or your old enough children the same, and have them practice as well. You'd be surprised how much fun a day at the range can be, I have yet to meet a kid that didn't LOVE firing a gun. The wife, I guarantee, will love it too once she gets a compliment or two (women with guns are always hot). I would say the same of whatever form of self defense you wished to use. Pepperspray, buy a practice bottle and get your boyfriend to volunteer to get his face painted blue. Taser, take a locally offered police class on them and prepare to ride the lightning. In the end, any form of self defense can be useful and practical so long as you prepare and PRACTICE, so that you know the proper response in a self defense situation. Guns are great because they are the great equalizer. No matter what size you are, build, complexion, race, sex, or demeanor, you can be killed by, or defend yourself with one. I taught every girlfriend I've had since I've been old enough to own a firearm how to use one for that very reason.