Mount Rainier, a town of just less than 10,000 residents, last week became the second local jurisdiction to reject a call for a nuclear weapons freeze.

The measure lost after the council expressed support for a strong national defense, questioned its ability to decide such an issue and stated fears that communists were behind the nuclear freeze movement. The vote was 2 to 1, with one member abstaining.

Earlier this year, similar resolutions, which urged the United States and Soviet Union to agree to a ban on the testing, production and deployment of nuclear warheads, easily passed in a range of jurisdictions here as the national issue reached town halls across the country.

Loudoun and Montgomery counties, Garrett Park, Takoma Park, Brentwood, College Park, Somerset and Hyattsville have passed resolutions, voter referendums or both. Alexandria's City Council rejected a nuclear freeze measure in a tie vote.

But as the list of supporting communities was growing, opponents of the weapons freeze began trying to counter the disarmament campaign.

Some Mount Rainier council members said talks with neighbors and articles in the Reader's Digest lead them to believe communists might be behind the movement.

The nuclear freeze was the third item on the council's Sept. 7 agenda, after loose dogs and leaky basements. Nearly 40 persons -- 10 times the usual attendance -- crowded into the town's one-room office-council chamber.

Members of the Mount Rainier Weapons Freeze Campaign urged the council to add its voice to other communities' in seeking to curtail what they called a growing threat of annihilation and runaway defense spending.

"There is no 'window of vulnerability' " as defense strategists have suggested, said campaign group member Chris Llewellyn. She urged that the nation's defense money be "put into education, industry, the environment to create jobs."

A resident, Doyle L. Niemann, said a freeze resolution would "tell the Congress and the president that the little guy out here in the community wants an end to the game-playing."

After others spoke in favor of the resolution, Mayor Linda Nalls asked the commander of the local American Legion post, William Bell, what he thought. Bell excused himself and left the room in silence.

(The local post has not taken a stand on the issue, but the national organization opposes a unilateral nuclear arms freeze.)

Council member Stanley Prusch, who introduced the resolution, said most of the 33 neighbors he talked to supported a nuclear freeze.

But council member Robert Creamer said he spoke to about two dozen constituents. Four favored the freeze, four didn't care and 14 opposed it and advised him, he said, that "we cannot rely on communist promises."

He voted with Frances Plumber to defeat Prusch's resolution supporting the freeze. Charlotte McDonald abstained. As mayor, Nalls votes only to break a tie.

"You got a real bug on your hands," Nalls said afterward. "We're not qualified, and we weren't elected to represent these types of issues. . . . Everybody's giving us statistics. But even if it is verifiable, how can we trust communism?"