Republican Rep. Paul S. Trible, who has staked out a hard-line law and order stance in his race for the Senate, today seized on the Tylenol deaths in metropolitan Chicago to dramatize his position in favor of the death penalty.

In a speech to college students in Virginia Beach and in a statement from his campaign office, Trible called the killings of seven persons with cyanide-laced Extra-Strength Tylenol capsules "irresponsible."

For "this kind of activity . . . I believe capital punishment is an appropriate sanction," Trible declared. "My opponent does not."

A spokesman for Democrat Richard J. Davis, who has stated his personal opposition to the death penalty, decried the injection of the Tylenol deaths into the campaign. "This is a pathetic attempt to latch onto every newspaper headline to try and boost his sagging candidacy," said Davis press secretary Will Marshall.

Trible's speech represents the second time in the past two months that the 35-year-old Newport News congressman has raised the death penalty issue -- an emotional one following the state's Aug. 10 execution of Frank Coppola, the first in Virginia in 20 years.

In an Aug. 26 speech in Suffolk, Trible had pointed to public support for the Coppola electrocution in attacking Davis' opposition to the death penalty. Davis campaign staffers and other critics have argued that capital punishment is a phony issue in the campaign because death penalty laws are set at the state level and not by Congress.