First of all, I'd like to take a swing at the issue from the standpoint of the Constitution. The Second Amendment says:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.I am going to assume for the sake of argument that anyone who thinks of themselves as a conservative would accept as a given the simple premise that the only legitimate way to interpret the Constitution is to look at what the words would have meant to those who wrote it. We are not at liberty to invent our own meaning; we must seek the original understanding.
If that is the case, the text of the Second Amendment clearly states that the right to keep and bear arms is predicated on the necessity of a "well regulated militia." Since we no longer use a militia system - the very basis on which the right to keep and bear arms was expressly predicated - this amendment cannot be construed to provide an unlimited individual right to keep and bear arms.
In fact, for nearly the entire history of the Supreme Court, the Court rejected the notion that this amendment applies to simple individual rights to gun ownership. In Miller Vs Texas (1884), the Court rejected the notion that the Bill of Rights applied to state rather than federal laws, and that states had the right to legislate gun licensing (oh, how I wish the Court had continued to see the obvious point that the Bill of Rights applies to the federal and not the state government). And in its unanimous 1939 United States vs Miller decision, the Court stated:
In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a 'shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length' at this time has some reasonable relationship to any preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument.It was not until the 2008 decision in DC vs Heller that the Court found an individual right to bear arms irrespective of a militia.
The great temptation (as Robert Bork famously called it) in constitutional jurisprudence is to create a right or meaning of the Constitution that the framers never intended because you believe such an right or interpretation should exist. Normally, we think of liberal justices engaging in such judicial activism, but "conservative" justices can as well, and this was a clear case. In fact, as one conservative critic has pointed out, the justification used by the Roberts Court in Heller is eerily similar to the justification used by the Warren Court in Roe V Wade.
Having said that, just because the Second Amendment itself does not guarantee the right to gun ownership by individual citizens, that doesn't mean gun ownership is unlawful. It just means that it is up to each state to determine its own gun laws (and to make sure that a citizen is not deprived of his property without due process). Further, the very concept of personal property rights must include the right to defend that property.
In earlier posts I have suggested that traditional conservativism always favors the local over the centralized. On this basis it is unreasonable to imagine that every state should have the same gun laws. And it means that any federal action is highly suspect. There is always the great danger of momentary crises turning into power grabs at the federal level, and once that happens, the power is almost never relinquished.
So in the case of the Newtown shooting, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me that Washington is scrambling to do something about this issue. Off the top of my head, the only constitutional basis on which the federal government could become involved in something like gun control is regulating/prohibiting the sell of assault weapons on the basis of the interstate commerce clause. Otherwise, it seems to me that laws about gun registration and limits about magazines, etc are state issues, not federal issues, and should be settled by state legislatures.