Not all gun owners love guns, you know

Mr. Kundu, 48, who works for the federal government, is a conflicted gun owner, one of many such Americans whom researchers and social scientists are just beginning to study as a potentially moderating influence in the escalating gun debate.

In Mr. Kundu’s case, the conflict is that he enjoys competitive shooting even as he perceives danger in what he describes as a local arms race that he feels powerless to escape.

Out of “common sense,” he said, he needs to be as armed as his neighbors, some of whom he describes as troublemakers with assault rifles. “It is so discouraging, so paranoia-inducing,” he said. “It makes one feel as though you’ve got to be continually vigilant and defensive instead of living your life free.”

Other gun owners interviewed for this article expressed similar reservations, citing their enjoyment of hunting or of introducing family members to the sport while expressing support for stricter gun control legislation. Mr. Kundu, for instance, supports a ban on the kind of assault weapon that he owns, a rifle manufactured by Panther Arms.