I do not know specific statistics, but I'm pretty sure that "gun crimes" are not too high relatively speaking. You might try: http://www.nra.org/
or some FBI crime statistics.
It is my understanding that some of the "gun crimes" are drug dealer and gang-vs-gang related (especially when it comes to youth). Accidental deaths due to firearms is extremely low and has dropped over the last 50 years or so due to education (primarily through the NRA) despite the dramatic INCREASE in the number of guns in the US.
I do carry a concealed handgun most of the time when I am in public. Not because I am fearful that I will need it on a daily basis, but it is a tool that effectively can deter or stop a violent criminal act if I am ever in that situation. I have carried a handgun on and off duty for almost 8 years - rarely drew it in the line of duty (reserve deputy), and never fired a shot at a person (I did shoot a snake and almost had to shoot a dog).
For me, my firearms hobby satisfies a few interests. As an mechanical engineer, I am facinated by mechanisms of all sorts. As a martial artist, I like devices that help in self defense situations. I enjoy target shooting. Some people like golf or some other sport, but I like the challenge of being able to hit a small target with a pistol. I also like collecting different firearms - mainly handguns, but also rifles and shotguns because each one if fascinating in its own way. Firearms for me is a hobby - but a hobby with a purpose.
In recent years, various states (38 I think) have allowed law abbiding citizens to carry concealed handguns. During that same period, the violent crime rates of almost all of those states have dropped while rates in most of the other states have risen. Admittely, there may be other factors at work (i.e. longer sentencing for habitual crimials). However, it seems logical to me that a criminal will be less likely to attack if there is a chance that their potential victim may be able and (legally allowed) to effectively fight back with a deadly weapon.
I have heard that citizens are not leagally allowed to fight back against criminals in England and Australia - and this is a major reason why violent crime has been on the increase in these countries.
I think the Founding Fathers of the United States had a good understanding of a free country in regards to firearms by allowing it in our 2nd Ammendment. Firearms in the hands of free citezen is a tremendous deterant to not only the criminal on the streets but also to over zealous governments (whoever they may represent).
[This message has been edited by MartinR (edited 02-25-2005).]