WHILE CITIES and towns are burying their young in outlandish numbers, leaders of the National Rifle Association are, incredibly, seeking to blow away a 1986 law banning private ownership of fully automatic machine guns. Listen to what those directly on the firing line, the police, think about that.

"This time the NRA has gone too far," says Don Cahill, legislative chairman of the national Fraternal Order of Police. "First cop-killer bullets, now machine guns. Whose side is the NRA on? We've all seen the advertisement a thousand times. A famous entertainer, politician or athlete holding a rifle and saying, 'I'm the NRA.' The NRA's effort to overturn the 1986 machine gun ban cuts away all of the NRA's fancy all-American rhetoric developed by some public relations whiz. What it leaves us with is a clear picture of the extremist NRA leadership. It's a picture of a group of people who put money from gun sales first and public safety last."

Moses Ector, president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, points out that "a young black male growing up in America today is part of a generation under the gun. ... For the sake of all Americans, particularly those who are at most risk, we urge the Supreme Court to deny the NRA's attempt to legalize machine guns."

D.C. Police Chief Isaac Fulwood says: "Machine guns have no place in civilized society. The purpose is to kill large sums of people as quickly as possible."

Jules Bernstein, counsel for the National Association of Police Organizations, observes that "while everyone else in America is trying to curb the killing and the mayhem, the NRA is busily seeking to open rather than close the floodgates of artillery."

Prince George's County Police Chief David Mitchell, speaking for the Police Executive Research Forum, cites the Jay Bias killing in his county as an example of what is happening across the country "with much greater frequency because of the sheer firepower available to the general public. ... Can any intelligent, concerned American truly believe that gun violence won't escalate even more if these military weapons are available again to the general public?"

These organizations oppose legalizing machine guns. They favor outlawing military-style assault weapons, which have no good reason to be on the civilian market but are, and in alarming numbers. To law enforcement officers, it is a matter of life and death.