In his diatribe against Colman McCarthy {"Does Banning Guns Reduce Crime? No," Free for All, Dec. 5}, Peter Gookins displays egregiously flawed logic. Claiming gun control laws are unsuccessful, he points out that following passage of the D.C. gun control law of 1976, crime in Washington rose substantially. He later claims that the fact that higher crime areas across the United States have the most restrictive gun laws demonstrates that such laws act to increase crime.

In neither case does Gookins bother to distinguish between the general crime rate and the rate of crime involving handguns. But even more important, his first statement, concerning the D.C. law, is a prime example of the logical fallacy of assuming something has caused an event simply because it preceded it. Crime was rising before the law was passed. In order for Gookins to make his point, he would have to demonstrate that the rise in gun-related crime was higher than it would have been without the law (or at least only the same), and this he did not do.

And in citing the relationship between higher crime areas across the United States and the existence of restrictive gun control laws, Gookins makes the exceedingly common mistake of assuming that a high statistical correlation demonstrates a particular causation. Frequently, two phenomena will exhibit a high degree of correlation because they are both caused by some third factor not even examined. In this case, however, there is reason to believe in a causative relationship, but hardly of the nature asserted by Gookins.

It is much more logical to assume that enactment of restrictive laws was caused by the higher crime rate than vice versa. After all, there is much less motivation for the enactment of the restrictive laws in the absence of gun-related crime. For this correlation to even begin to support the direction of causation asserted by Gookins, it would have to be shown that the current higher crime areas were not among the higher crime areas before the restrictive laws were enacted. I suspect a statistical study would show this definitely not to be the case.

I am a member of the National Rifle Association, and I believe in the rights of responsible parties to own firearms. I believe that some current gun restrictions are ill-conceived, about some I have mixed feelings, and others I wholeheartedly support even though they may cause me inconvenience. But I also most strongly believe that the goal of responsible gun ownership is ill-served by the kind of irrational and intemperate ramblings manifest in Gookins' letter.

John M. Reed