This topic alone could consume quite some time. Let's condense the basic premise and go from there but not create a novel here. There are volumes of expert opinions out there already.
The reason many people have recently taken an interest in acquiring a firearm is because they have lost faith in the government to protect them. It is that simple.
The news of nuclear/biological/EMP weapons being used, unsecured borders, gang/drug wars, economic pressures, blatantly corrupt public officials, gun confiscation and increase of terrorism around the world has caused people who previously would not have considered firearms to rethink their position - in record numbers.
The implied threat of government firearms confiscation alone has driven certain firearm and ammunition prices up due to supply and demand pressures. The hoardes of people attending gun shows is testament to that. Not everyone at these shows are toothless, uneducated "redneck" militia members as some media and secular interest groups might claim.
Firearms ownership demands responsibility - without it accidents and death occur. Whether you have intentions to use the firearms for sport competition, hunting or personal protection, this is not an area you can approach cavalierly.
If you have never owned, used or trained with a firearm - long gun or handgun, are you prepared to dedicate the time to being a responsible gun owner?
Maintaining a firearm is a full time obligation toward safety - not a one time event.
If your intentions are for self defense and preparedness are you able to allocate money to the purchase of a highly reliable and high quality firearm.
Will you seek out proper training if you have no firearms related skills?
Do you have a permit to legally possess a handgun in your state?
Do you plan/can you allocate money to purchase a safe to secure your firearm(s) from children and/or thieves?
Would you be willing to join the NRA, a local gun club, take private lessons or enter competitive sports to gain needed proficiency in firearms?
Do you have competency in the use of firearms as a result of military service, law enforcement or prior training and aptitude from sporting competition etc.
How often do you/could you maintain your skills?
You need to have a working knowledge of your state "Use of Force" laws if you ever plan on using firearms for the purpose of self defense.
What other options do you and your family have for protection in the event of civil unrest /disaster to protect your family, proterty and possessions from roving bands of criminals and the like?
Does the use of a firearm fit into disaster preparedness plans you have in place.
Are you mentally prepared to use deadly physical force upon another and taking a life in the defense of yourself, family or others if need be. Take considerable time to think about this.
Are you prepared mentally for the consequences of using a fiream in your own self defense?
Might you be abdicating or delegating the responsibility of gun ownership to someone else in your family or neighborhood?
Do the benefits of personal firearms ownership outweigh the risks and costs associated with this decision?
What restrictions does your state have on the exercise of the constitutional right to possess a firearm. How does that affect your decision to possess a firearm for personal protection. Some cities have total bans on firearms of any kind and that needs to be considered.
Once you have considered the answers to these questions and have made a decision...then you have to consider some of the many ways to proceed down that path.
Remember - your safety, the safety of others and being a responsible firearms owner are of the utmost importance.
Later: Preparedness & Firearm Ownership Strategies - there are choices......
Considering concealed carry? You might gain some additional insight into some of the challenges you might face with the many disturbed persons who live amongst us - and would think nothing about killing you for absolutely no reason whatsoever.