This seems to be one of the basic divisions of thinking that inevitably comes up in the gun control debate. Gun control advocates argue that killing could be avoided if the availability of guns were reduced. Gun advocates argue that violence can be reduced by making sure that there is someone nearby to respond to violence (and that the knowledge that there are likely armed citizens or off duty law enforcement around will deter crimes.)
Occasionally this "more guns" argument even comes from somewhat surprising quarters. Left-leaning writer Jeffrey Goldberg writing at The Atlantic this month argued that since the US has so many guns in circulation (and a sufficient cultural attachment to them) that it would never be possible to make the US gun free, it would be better to make sure that there are significantly more well trained citizens with concealed carry licenses.
Alan Jacobs over at The American Conservative states a common objection to the "more guns could prevent violence" point of view:
But what troubles me most about this suggestion — and the general More Guns approach to social ills — is the absolute abandonment of civil society it represents. It gives up on the rule of law in favor of a Hobbesian “war of every man against every man” in which we no longer have genuine neighbors, only potential enemies. You may trust your neighbor for now — but you have high-powered recourse if he ever acts wrongly.It seems to me that in many ways this reaction underlines a divide in how people think about society and order -- one that generally falls along the left/right axis, though since Jacobs is writing for TAC I would assume that in some sense he calls himself a "conservative".
Whatever lack of open violence may be procured by this method is not peace or civil order, but rather a standoff, a Cold War maintained by the threat of mutually assured destruction. Moreover, the person who wishes to live this way, to maintain order at universal gunpoint, has an absolute trust in his own ability to use weapons wisely and well: he never for a moment asks whether he can be trusted with a gun. Of course he can! (But in literature we call this hubris.)
Jacobs says that the "more guns" approach to dealing with crime implies a “war of every man against every man”. In keeping with this view, he instead advocates reducing the availability of guns in order to make sure that however much every man way want to make war against every other man, he can't do so as lethally.
However, it seems to me that the "more guns" solution does not in fact assume a Hobbesian reality, it assumes that the vast majority of people do support and wish to enforce an orderly society, and thus that members of that society can and should be allowed to have the power to protect society against those who seek to disrupt with it violence.
Jacobs believes that guns should be restricted precisely because he believes in a Hobbesian war of all against all. The "more guns" suggestion, on the other hand, seems to imply a basic social solidarity -- that most people are and desire to be law abiding. The more Hobbesian view holds that the tools of force should, as much as possible, be restricted only to those who represent state authority -- an authority which externally imposes order on a society which would otherwise be violently anarchic. The "more guns" partisans believe that an orderly society is fairly natural, and that members of it simply need to be given the tools to enforce that order against a small minority who would disrupt that order.
Or course, if the disagreement on guns boils down, among other things, to a fundamental disagreement about human nature, it's obvious that agreement and resolution would be very difficult.
ADDENDUM: Since the recent surge in discussion of gun control has touched off by the mass murder at Newtown, it's probably worth stating as a side note that although in general I'm sympathetic to allowing more citizens to get concealed carry permits (given some appropriate level of background check and proficiency) it seems to me that those suggesting that this is the clear solution to schools shootings are probably over-reaching. Schools shootings are incredibly rare (statistically, an average US school will be hit with a mass shooting every 12,000 years) and I don't think it's necessarily reasonable to form a lot of school policies around such an unusual event. Plus, I suspect that not many school teachers are the sort who want to carry weapons.