Let’s assume for the moment that in the wake of the latest school shootings, the US congress finds the political will and the numbers to pass a fairly stringent gun control regime.
In practical terms it would almost certainly be a compromise leaving some categories of gun owners unaffected. We can also assume that some or many of those affected would obey the law, even if they opposed it, and that their example might encourage others to comply.
Let’s not forget as well that many gun owners would support meaningful restrictions on firearms ownership. My Canadian uncle had a caseful of guns in his cellar, from which he taught me to shoot, and he was fine with what I understand to be a fairly restrictive regime in Ontario.
There would be others who would not comply but who could be dealt with by conventional law enforcement methods. We could expect the example set here to encourage further compliance among the intransigent.
That leaves a real hardcore of people who not only believe that gun ownership is an inalienable right, but one which forms part of a wider nativist ideology bound intimately to their sense of identity as Americans. Such people would be more likely to have a lot of guns, to use them frequently and capably and to have large quantities of ammunition to hand. Additionally, there would be some crossover with the worlds of law enforcement, the military and national guard, and American paramilitary culture generally – everything from private security to wacky fringe militias. This in turn would supply them with at least basic concepts of military tactics, discipline, territorial awareness and ancilliary skills like, say, bomb making. Most importantly, this would be a group that would perceive resistance to gun control laws as a justified act of rebellion.
I don’t know how many such people there are in the United States, but I don’t think an estimate in the low multiples of tens of thousands would be particularly outré. I suppose what I’m getting at is the question of whether it would be possible to enforce gun control across the United States in general without declaring martial law, in at least some parts of the country. Which is to say that the right to bear arms is a way for the most extreme of the people who exercise it to hold democracy hostage.