President Obama's highly controversial gun control proposal is being split into several bills that Senate Democrats hope will be easier to pass. Expanded background checks, limits on the size of weapon magazines and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein's "assault weapons" ban may all be brought up for a vote.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., wants to move a "placeholder" bill so he can replace it with something Republicans haven't yet seen. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., is expected to move several of the bills through committee in the next few weeks.

So far, the main result of the president's push has been a gushing media campaign in support of it. Following quickly behind it has been a consumer backlash, record gun sales, shortages of ammunition and crowds so large at gun shows that people are standing in line for hours to get in.

As consumers rush to the gun stores and don't find what they want, Vice President Biden, chief legislative advocate of Obama's gun control initiative, has some advice for homeowners who fear someone trying to break into their houses. "If you want to protect yourself," he said, "get a double-barrel shotgun. Have the shells for a 12-gauge shotgun, and I promise you, as I told my wife ... Jill, if there's ever a problem, just walk out on the balcony here, walk out, put that double-barrel shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house. I promise you whoever's coming in is not going, you don't need an AR-15. It's harder to aim, it's harder to use. And in fact, you don't need 30 rounds to protect yourself. Buy a shotgun. Buy a shotgun."

Forget, for the moment, that the Bidens have Secret Service protection and probably will for the rest of their lives. Say they were just a regular Joe and Jill, living alone in their somewhat secluded house. And imagine that regular Jill, alone at home late some night while regular Joe was out bowling, heard someone trying to break into the house.

By the time she gets her shotgun out of the safe and loads it, the intruder would be in the house, seeking to add to his felony with burglary or worse. Rather than rushing out to her balcony, Mrs. Biden would do better to get out a door and run to a neighbor's house to call the cops.

What if she couldn't get out? The veep is right in one respect: A 12-gauge shotgun is the best defensive weapon you can buy, legally or otherwise. With a heavy buckshot load (double-ought shot), you fire nine .33-caliber pellets at once. Not even a submachine gun can do that.

But shotguns are big and heavy. Not everyone can handle their recoil, and they're hard to load under stress unless you're well-trained. No one in his right mind would leave any weapon lying around a home that had children. But if unloaded and properly locked up, it's not much use to a young mother who hears someone breaking in in the middle of the night.

So Americans -- women in particular -- should have the right to choose something they can store securely and get to quickly, which probably means a handgun.

At this point, American women -- and men -- have the right to choose different weapons for self-defense. I wouldn't choose an AR-15 for self-defense, but that's my choice. You should be able to make your own, as well.

And that's the issue here: It's not a question of who "needs" a semi-automatic pistol or rifle. Few of us, other than law enforcement personnel, will ever "need" an AR-15 or a Beretta pistol with a 15-round magazine, or any of the other weapons the liberals want to ban. But we have the freedom to choose them if we want to, and that freedom is at stake in the gun control debate.

Jed Babbin was appointed deputy undersecretary of defense by President George H.W. Bush. He is the author of such best-selling books as "Inside the Asylum" and "In the Words of Our Enemies."