Don Colburn's article, "Guns, Rape and Responsibility" {Public Health, Nov. 3} accurately exposes the misguided logic behind the National Rifle Association's ad campaign to promote handgun ownership among women. Obviously, if carrying loaded handguns made us safer, we'd already be the safest nation on earth.

The article also questioned the validity of the NRA's statistic in one ad about rape. Another, more blatant attempt at propaganda on the NRA ad aimed at women ran in this paper and drastically inflated women's vulnerability to crime. The ad trumpeted, "According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a 20-year-old American female has a 72 percent chance of being raped, robbed or assaulted in her lifetime."

The NRA was wrong. In fact, when the same ad quietly reemerged a month later, it read, ". . . a 20-year-old American has a 72 percent chance of being victimized by violent crime in his or her lifetime" {emphasis added}. The inaccurate statistics underscore the NRA's reliance on scare tactics to promote handgun sales.

Barbara Lautman Director of Communications Handgun Control Inc., Washington

Better Blood Tests

I wonder if I am alone in being outraged after reading reports in consecutive weeks {Oct. 20 and 27} concerning large numbers of inaccurate blood testing results by medical laboratories across the nation.

In the last several weeks, there have been articles relative to new guidelines set for safe levels of blood cholesterol. These articles also stressed that due to poorly calibrated equipment and the absence of a set standard for testing, medical laboratories have been vastly inaccurate in testing cholesterol levels.

More shocking is the report on the recent results of the College of American Pathologists testing the proficiency of 700 U.S. laboratories on their testing for AIDS. The error rate, in both false-negatives and false-positives, in addition to the ramifications of these errors, is enough to knock the socks off of everyone. As in the erroneous testing of cholesterol, they stress the urgent need for setting national testing standards.

Excuse me, but what have they been waiting for? Just thinking of the numbers of people, particularly in AIDS testing, whose lives have been negatively altered by this unacceptable level of incompetence is staggering. Added to this travesty is the wasted cost of useless test results. With little or no checks and balances, are the patients and/or insurance companies expected to pay for false test results?

Not next month or next year -- now is the time for all state and federal regulatory agencies to correct this dangerous mishandling of crucial medical testing. Joyce A. Novack Fairfax

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