Michael Moore raised an interesting point in 'Bowling For Columbine' - that it is a culture of fear and paranoia that causes the relatively large number of gun deaths in the US, when compared to other countries with similar policies on gun registration and control.
No matter what controls are placed on gun ownership, the real wackos intent on killing someone with a gun are still going to do it. A large point of extensive gun control is to prevent the ordinary citizen from mishandling their firearms, like using them while not in a sensible frame of mind (during an argument or somesuch).
In Australia, anyone can really get a gun - but you have to attend a short course on responsible ownership, get a license, and show that you are storing the gun safely. This either means in a gun safe, or padlocked in say a built-in wardrobe with the ammunition in a separate, locked cupboard. This prevents anybody from getting quick access to the gun, even if they have the keys: meaning the only shots that are going to be fired are the well-aimed, calculated type.
As for protection from the nutjobs who are determined to do illegal things...the police are the ones to call. Seriously, if someone is already in your house and in a position to shoot you, having a gun within easy reach is probably going to give them more of a reason to actually go through with it.