A City Council committee has agreed to hold a public hearing on a proposal to reopen registration of handguns for those who can show a "need" to have one.

The proposal, first made two months ago by council member H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7), would give people until the end of the year to register handguns if they could demonstrate a "need"--such as crime in their neighborhood--to own one. Crawford's measure would bar anyone with a criminal record from registering a handgun and would give police the authority to determine need.

The city's gun control law, considered among the toughest in the nation, took effect in 1977. It required all those with handguns at the time to register them and prohibited any future sale or registration of handguns in Washington. In addition, the law said, all firearms are to be kept unloaded and inoperable.

"It's time we take a look realistically at what is going on in our city," Crawford said in support of his proposal. He said that city residents and businesses are being victimized by crime and should be allowed to keep handguns in their homes and places of business.

The council's judiciary committee has received several petitions with a total of about 50 names, mostly from Ward 7, in favor of the proposal, a committee aide said.

Council member David A. Clarke (D-Ward 1), chairman of the committee and an architect of the gun control law, has set July 22 as a hearing date for Crawford's proposal. Clarke said in a prepared statement last week that he "remained adamantly opposed to the reopening" of handgun registration.

Persons who want to testify at the meeting must notify the judiciary committee in writing by July 20.