A controversial gun control measure, defeated in its early stages last week by the Arlington County Board, is unlikely to be reintroduced this year, according to its chief sponsor.

"I'll have to look at the situation as it arises," said board member Joseph S. Wholey, who had made enactment of a gun control ordinance one of his top priorities before leaving office in Decemeber. "There's clearly not a majority in favor of it. The people on the board didn't seem too interested in hearing national evidence" about gun control.

"I hope no such tragedy occurs but perhaps if there's some persuasive local evidence that certain crimes were committed by people who acquired these guns" then, Wholey said, he might re-introduce the proposal.

The measure, which would have required Arlington residents to register most handguns including the light, concealable weapons known as "Saturday night specials," was killed when Board Chairman John W. Purdy, in a surprise move, voted not to hold a public hearing on the proposed law.

As originally drafted by Commonwealth's Attorney William S. Burroughs Jr., the law would have required a police permit for possession or purchase of a handgun.

However, at a meeting on May 30, the board decided to weaken the measure by requiring owners of most types of handguns to obtain only one permit, regardless of the number of guns they own. Individual permits would be required for each "Saturday night special."

At that meeting Purdy indicated that he would be willing to hold a public hearing despite his reservations about the proposed law, but last week he joined board members Walter L. Frankland Jr. and Dorothy T. Grotos in opposing a hearing.

"Upon further reflection I decided that the law wasn't going to accomplish anything." Purdy said later. "While I don't like the National Rifle Association's apprach, their slogan that these laws will only affect law-abiding people has a lot of weight."

"I don't think it would be effective." Purdy continued. "The real problem is the illicit transfer of handguns among the criminal element. A lot of people" would simply not bother to register their weapons, he said.

Purdy described the 15-minute discussion preceding the vote as "slightly acrimonious" and said "Joe was seething" after the vote. When asked whether he was surprised by Purdy's action. Wholey replied, "No comment."