A Virginia congressman has asked the Justice Department to investigate a questionnaire mailed by a private, Alexandria-based gun lobbying group using the words "official Congressional District survey" and an emblem similar to the congressional seal.

Republican Rep. G. William Whitehurst of Virginia Beach requested the inquiry last week after a constituent complained the organization, Gun Owners of America Inc., was trying "to assume an air of government authorized authenticity here."

Federal law prohibits the unofficial use of the seal or any facsimile.

The questionnaire -- entitled "Official Congressional District Survey on Violent Crime" -- and an accompanying fund-raising letter signed by the group's executive director, former Fairfax County delegate Larry Pratt, urge recipients to fight efforts in Congress to ban private handgun ownership.

"There's no doubt in my mind that if these radical pressure groups succeed, the safety of each and every person in your neighborhood and and mine will be in serious danger," Pratt wrote.

The letter, addressed to "Dear Fellow Gun Owner," said survey answers -- to such queries as "Would you help a U.S. Senator or Congressman who you believed was soft on crime?" -- would be forwarded to Whitehurst and Virginia Sens. John W. Warner and Harry F. Byrd Jr.

In a letter to Justice, Whitehurst attacked what he called the mailing's "alarmist language" and "scare tactics." He said he was most concerned, however, by use of the "Great Seal, particularly when it is used to solicit money from my constituents."

Pratt did not return several telephone inquiries.