Two items in The Post of Jan. 24 prompt me to try out an idea with you. It is a strategy for controlling handguns by banning bullets. Guns don't kill people, bullets do.

The editorial "The NRA vs. the Police" states that "police and others on the firing line protecting the public are furious at the NRA's persistent lobbying for 1) armor-piercing 'cop-killer' bullets." Actually, almost two years ago, we succeeded in enacting legislation banning the import, manufacture or sale of this ammunition. The proposal came to me from the New York City Police Benevolent Association. I had great help in the Senate from Strom Thurmond and from police associations across the nation.

This was the first law in history to outlaw a particular round of ammunition. One thought led to another. There are 70 million handguns in the country, one for every family if you like. These are simple machines which, given minimum care, last indefinitely. (Forty odd years ago while in the Navy I carried on watch a .45 caliber gun manufactured at the Springfield, Mass., armory in 1912. I don't doubt some ensign is carrying it to this day.) In effect, we have a two-century supply of handguns.

On the other hand, we have a four-year supply of ammunition. I will spare you the numbers: that is what production, inventory and use come to. Why not, then, begin to close off the supply of ammunition?

In the last Congress, and again in this one, I introduced a bill to ban the production and sale of .25 and .32 caliber ammunition -- ammunition for Saturday night specials, the "snubbies." About one-quarter of the rounds fired at New York City police are of these two calibers.

I cannot doubt the same is true of the many children here in Washington who end up -- as Joyce Ladner writes in her moving article in Outlook, "Washington, Save Your Children!" -- as "bullet-riddled corpses." Children killing children.

Prof. Ladner proposes a number of measures: "The first is stepping up efforts to take guns away from teen-agers." By all means try. But could we not also begin squeezing the "ammo" supply? I am going to introduce further legislation outlawing 9 mm. rounds -- ammunition used in Uzis, which are fast becoming the weapon of choice in the drug world.

It won't transform our neighborhoods overnight. But wouldn't it help? Oughtn't we do what we can?


U.S. Senator (D-N.Y.)