Guns, Guns, Guns....
I de-emphasize firearms as a primary self-defense tool...as this creates an entire lifestyle change for those that are new to guns. I own, but never carry, firearms. That is my personal choice. Self-Protection can be taught, and your safety can be dramatically increased, with your comfort and serenity still in tact. If you are already a gun owner, the shift to firearm carry may be quite fluid and natural...but remember...if your primary defense option is to shoot people, you run the risk of being single minded in your approach to every situation. Even worse, if a firearm is introduced into an emotional yet non-lethal encounter, a tragedy could result. Just be thoughtful with your choice.
"Should I open carry my gun? Surely that will scare 'bad guys' away!"
In this instructor's opinion, open carry of firearms does little to discourage aggression. Not only will it increase anxiety in those uncomfortable around guns, but many experts will agree that a predator can adjust his tactics to account for the firearm, but may not be deterred. The firearm (in some cases) is actually the reason a person may confront you. Police officers have special "retention" holsters, and train endlessly to keep criminals from snatching their guns. If legal, ALWAYS conceal your advantage. Always...
This last suggestion applies to all defensive tools. Do not display or talk about your weapons. They should be presented the instant they are used in a defensive manner. Some situations may benefit from the threat of weapon use, but these situations are not common. Use your own judgment, but be able to explain your methods. Threats are to be taken seriously.
Having a firearm in your home can be a comfort. Quick access safes are available, and safe storage of your weapon is your responsibility. If you have a firearm that you keep "just in case," train with it in the way you believe you may need to use it. There is a difference between moving from room to room with a firearm, and standing in a well-lighted range. I suggest firearm handling courses to anyone that has a gun. One tactic I strongly suggest (if you suspect an intruder is in your home) is to lock the door of the room you are in, find cover behind solid furniture, and call the police. NEVER---ever---confront an intruder unless you are compelled to protect another person in the home.
Be able to load your gun quickly without fumbling. Be able to unload it and render it "safe" without hesitation. Be able to safely check the chamber on your automatic (may require some hand strength). Learn when, or if, you should cock the hammer.
Firearm ownership is a responsibility, not unlike owning a car. For your safety and the safety of others, take it seriously.