Everyone has the absolute right to defend himself and his family against those who would unlawfully do them harm. The police aren't there to protect individuals, and even if that was their job, it would be impossible. Police cannot be everywhere at once, so if the situation arises, I must have the ability to protect myself. My life and that of my family outweigh the value of any personal possessions I may have, and therefore I think it is better to run from violence than to confront it with force.
However, there should be no reason to limit my access to tools and tactics to protect myself in the event that retreat is not an option. I must have the right to stand my ground in the face of aggression, and be free of the threat of prosecution or civil liability when I do. If I am cornered, accompanied by a child, or unfit to escape, how can anyone feel good about disarming me?
Self defense is a natural, human right. Regardless of what a law, a politician, or a law enforcement officer may say, the very first right above all others is the right to continue living. What other human rights matter if you can't protect the primary one?
Given that, I've thought about what a proper approach would be to self defense, since it is clear that legislation doesn't help one damn bit.
In practical terms...
1) Avoid danger. Stay away from bad places and situations where violence may occur. Do not go looking for trouble. Do not associate with people who generate trouble.
2) Mitigate trouble. Attempt to prevent a bad situation from escalating. Given verbal aggression, even if you are in the right, sometimes simply apologizing is enough to calm down an aggressor. If you are confronted by thugs, do your best to keep calm and attempt to leave. Always call the police if a situation sours, assuming you have the time. The call will not save you, but it makes a clear record of who is the victim and who is the aggressor. Simply being armed will often end a bad situation before it turns dire, but it is unwise to give away your tactical advantage before the actual need arises.
3) Pay attention. Do not take another's actions or intentions for granted. Do not underestimate anyone. Always maintain situational awareness. Know your escape routes. Know your assets and liabilities. Keep a dynamic plan in your mind to handle your current situation. Think ahead. Never assume you are safe, because bad things happen to good people everywhere, not just in dark alleys.
4) Be prepared. Always have the necessary tools to defend yourself. That doesn't just mean having a gun, it means being well trained. Know how to draw your weapon, know how to aim and fire your weapon, and practice often. Be prepared to use your weapon if need be.
5) Fight to live. In deadly combat, there is no such thing as a fair fight. If your life, or a life you are defending is put in jeopardy, show no mercy until the threat has been eliminated. Any method of preserving life, at this point is legitimate.
6) Remain calm. At least, as calm as possible... There will be plenty of time to panic once you are safe. Remember rule 3. Act in a reasonable manner. This is probably the hardest rule to follow, given the escalated emotional state you will be in when the time comes to exercise your right to self defense. In most of the country, you are allowed to match your defensive force to the magnitude of the aggressive force. There are situations where it is fair to assume your life is at risk, and others where it is not. When there is doubt, it is still "better to be tried by 12 than carried by 6."
These are my personal rules of self defense. Lists like this are great thought exercises, and great for putting yourself in a defensive mindset. Still, you can never take into account all possible situations. As Eisenhower said, "Planning is essential, but plans are useless."
Note: this is not meant to be scholarly work. This is simply my opinion. If I use someone else's ideas, I try to credit them where appropriate. I also reserve the right to change my opinion when provided with better information, as any half-intelligent person should do.