First off, the limit you reference about shotguns I think only applies to bird hunting or something. At least, I used a pump-action Mossberg that held 5 in the tube.
But on to my real question... this is a technology-oriented community... yet we seem very quick to crap all over the role that technology could play here.
Would an RFID-based system, in which you identify yourself to the gun using public key cryptography, be such a terrible thing? Assuming the mechanism can be made reliable (and with enough work, why can't it be made reliable enough?), to me it seems like it wouldn't be a bad idea to limit the number of people who can fire the weapon. E.g., you and your spouse both have key fobs that allow you to fire the gun, but without the fob, no one else can fire it.
If the fob is the problem - hear me out - why not have the RFID chip implanted in your wrist? Imagine it - you pick up your gun, and you can fire it, but if someone else picks it up, they can't. To me, that actually sounds pretty cool and futuristic. It would eliminate the need for a lot of fight scenes in sci-fi movies, though.
I know, not everyone wants something implanted in their wrist (although in this community I'd expect more than the average number to be willing). Well, maybe this is something only required for semi-automatic pistols, etc.... if you want a revolver, no RFID interlock required.
There are all sorts of interesting solutions we could come up with. Police departments could use a department key, so that any officer could fire any other officer's weapon, but a criminal in a struggle wouldn't be able to fire the officer's weapon.
Of course, we all know there are flaws with RFID. Could someone, with enough time and effort, clone a key fob? Probably. With enough time and effort, any sort of system we could devise will be defeated. Maybe someone will set off an EMP and render all our smart guns useless. The better question is, what is the increase in effectiveness we gain by doing this?
We seem very willing to invent scenarios in which safety mechanisms would cause problems... e.g., "me and my friend were working in the garage when someone came up and shot me! I told my friend to get my gun and shoot back, but he couldn't because of the RFID interlock!" and use this as a justification to ignore the potential of technology in this area. But are these really realistic scenarios? Or are we trying to justify what we already want to believe based on anecdotes...
Obviously this is not a total solution by any means. It does nothing to address the large number of firearms already in circulation. Some people suggest buy-back programs (although I'm a bit skeptical of those, since it seems like the people who are least likely to use a gun are going to be the most likely to trade it in for cash, and good luck trying to get the government to spend any money on a new program right now)... maybe gun manufacturers could offer a trade-in program, where people can upgrade to smart guns.
To sum up, I think there are viable things that can be done, but for some reason, a lot of us like to invent reasons, no matter how far-fetched, for us to conclude that nothing can be done.