Gun safety and gun laws in the US are one of the most difficult things to discuss in isolation from other social problems: mass shootings that are the result of combinations of factors such as desperation, anger, inadequate mental health care, living in a country where the government and the police see human life as without value, along with backwardness, intolerance, religious fanaticism, and other signs of a decaying society. This complexity makes it almost impossible to look at gun issues apart from their interaction with everything else. When we see supposed liberals, who up until a month ago railed against the “terrorist watch” no-fly list as racist, arbitrary, and undemocratic (which it is) now cheering wildly to increase the powers of the list, we can get a hint of how inter-related gun issues are with everything else.
Nevertheless, there are some inherent contradictions in gun issues that are worth pointing out:
The easiest targets for modifying gun laws, ie, banning semi-automatic rifles and improving background checks, will do the least to reduce the actual number of gun deaths.
Requiring demonstrated knowledge of gun safety before owning a firearm will do a great deal to reduce the worst sorts of gun violence, (children getting hold of them, or impulse suicide). But there is an inherent conflict between storing a weapon in such a way that is useful for home defense and one that is safe from children. The question of home defense is itself contradictory, simply because, while the fear of home invasion is drastically over-stated by those who make money by peddling fear, nevertheless there is some justification for it.
There are ways around the gun-safety vs gun-access conundrum (quick-release lockboxes keyed to a thumbprint, biometric tirggers, &c), but they’re expensive. This gets into areas where things like insurance and bonding, that some have suggested, end up tying the question “may you own a firearm?” to the question, “how much money do you have?” which, for obvious reasons, I am not at all comfortable with.
Most self-defense uses of handguns are never covered by the news, because most of them never involve discharging a weapon, thus it is very hard to get numbers on them. Part of the reason for this is that the US government won’t permit any of it’s agencies to make such a study.
What might be the biggest contradiction is this: The notion of using personal weapons to defend against a tyrannical government is nonsense, but giving the government authority to prevent personal ownership of weapons is a step toward tyranny.
Other than a complete and drastic restructuring of society, I do not see a way to resolve these contradictions.