Now that we are reading about the shootings on the highways and freeways, doesn't it make you wonder why our society makes it so easy to buy a cheap handgun?

How simple it is to settle a dispute with an always-nearby handgun, whether the argument be on a Los Angeles freeway or in a Washington home. Passing the Sarah and Jim Brady bill now before Congress, though it is too mild, would help.

The bill would require a check by local police chiefs upon notification that an application for purchase of a gun had been made. When the application was from a person of known criminal background or of limited mental capacity, this person would not be permitted to buy a gun.

Also requiring a seven-day waiting period for handgun purchases, this legislation could have prevented the Aug. 5 episode at the Pentagon. MARGARET T. ROBERTON Chevy Chase

The shootings on the Los Angeles freeways are a logical development of the ever-growing lawlessness that characterizes automobile traffic on this country's highways and streets.

Over at least the past 10 years, traffic police and highway patrol officers have demonstrated an increasing inability to deal with all varieties of traffic violations: speeding, reckless driving (frequent lane changes, tailgating, failure to yield right of way, passing through red lights and stop signs), polluting the environment (smoke, noise, falling debris from uncovered vehicles). All these violations (except going through red lights and stop signs) can be observed during a short ride on the Beltway.

Once or twice a year the authorities announce crackdowns on violators, but after a few days both they and the public forget about them. To deal effectively with this new brand of American lawlessness, a crackdown must be in effect 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. About the only strict enforcement we have now is for parking illegally.

An accident caused by a vehicle speeding through a red light can be just as fatal as being shot by a gun.