WHILE THE Bush administration and the semiautomatic thinkers at the NRA headquarters have teamed up to sabotage the Senate's approval of a ban on certain assault-style weapons, your local police have some pertinent new findings on the subject. Finding No. 1 was found at an eighth-grade school dance in Montgomery County last week: two loaded handguns, both semiautomatic. One was a .45-caliber weapon found on one of two 14-year-olds arrested; the second was a 9mm handgun hidden on the dance floor. Finding No. 2 was found at an elementary school in Southeast Washington: a loaded semiautomatic high-powered weapon in the hands of a 15-year-old.

These kinds of findings may help to explain why police officers all across the country are more than a little angry at the bless-all-guns faction of the NRA that keeps putting down efforts by rank-and-file as well as top officials to ban assault weapons. It is the police, of course, who wind up staring at the wrong ends of these weapons and who keep warning that semiautomatic assault weapons are showing up more frequently in schoolyards as well as streets. It is the police, too, who are sick and tired of NRA lobbyists' arguments that criminals will get whatever weapons they want no matter what. Why bless the open marketing -- and continued domestic manufacture -- of weapons that have no legitimate recreational use?

Why, too, argue, as the administration does, that foreign versions of these weapons can and should be banned as a way to stem crime -- but not U.S.-made versions of the same weapons?

Will we again hear the same song from the NRA Mitigating Chorus about how kids aren't allowed to have these weapons anyway and about how it's enough just to punish anybody caught doing bad things with weapons? The police want help, need help and deserve help in their battle to get these assault weapons at least off the legal markets. You would think that President Bush would want to get them off the export market to Colombia drug cartels and other eager customers around the underworld of this planet. Why wait for the weapons in the schools to go off before acting in the name of public safety?