D.C. Council Chairman David Clarke's plea {Metro, Jan. 3} that Virginia and Maryland should ban handgun sales in reaction to the current rash of handgun use by D.C. youth has fallen on unsympathetic ears. Whether his action was courageous or whether the request is analogous to the earlier move to raise the legal drinking age in the District is debatable. Nevertheless, it now appears that Mr. Clarke will need to seek another remedy for the problem of youth homicide in the District.

I suggest he focus his efforts on getting off the streets those, regardless of their age, who illegally possess, carry or use handguns. Our experience with narcotics and other illegal substances indicates that those who want them will obtain them -- even though the source may be half-way around the world. A ban on handgun sales in Maryland and Virginia would do little to curb the use of these weapons in the District. Locking up those who engage in crimes of violence would help curb the violence. Until those who inflict violence on others, regardless of the weapon, are jailed, none of us -- young or old -- will be safe on our streets.

Let Mr. Clarke show his courage in the D.C. Council with initiatives that would end the practice of freeing criminals for months, or even years, while trials are delayed. Let Mr. Clarke work to ensure mandatory jail sentences for illegal possession or use of handguns.

A. BARRY CARR Columbia