For years you've assured your readers that the Second Amendment "right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." So why do you condemn the National Rifle Association for testing the meaning of the 1986 law that requires machine guns to be made only with the authorization of the government {"The NRA's Machine Gun Pushers," editorial, Dec. 26}?

The NRA case doesn't seek to overturn the 1934 National Firearms Act requirement that machine gun owners and buyers be registered, licensed and taxed. It merely contends that compliance with the procedures of the 1934 law are sufficient -- as a trial court agreed, although an appellate court did not.

The only known case of misuse of one of the 175,000 licensed private machine guns was when a Dayton, Ohio, police officer used his in an apparent contract hit of a drug informant two years ago.

-- Neal Knox The writer is executive director of the Firearms Coalition.

Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister, believed that if you tell a lie often enough people will begin to believe it. You seem to have made this technique into an art form in your latest tirade against the NRA and the Second Amendment.

Your editorial also used the term "cop-killer bullets" for emotional appeal, although no police officer has ever been killed by such bullets. For added punch, you tossed in the term "assault weapon."

An assault weapon is no different mechanically from its civilian counterparts. Alter a deer rifle by changing its stock and a few other minor pieces of sheet metal, and you have an "assault" rifle. You would be hard pressed to name a single firearm design that didn't start life as an assault weapon in somebody's army.

To instill maximum fear, you usually use the words "semi-automatic" to modify "assault weapon," but only one police officer has ever been killed in the line of duty by a semi-automatic version of an assault weapon. And only one percent of firearms used in crime are long guns; less than 8 percent of that one percent -- or .001 percent of crime weapons -- are assault weapons.

Of course no editorial of yours would be complete without pandering to the bleatings of appointed police officials to exercise increased authority -- in effect, to suspend individual rights under the banner of increasing another fictitious entity called "public safety." Rank-and-file officers do not support their appointed officials on this issue and never have.

You continuously try to apply a test of legitimacy for the ownership and use of firearms that does not exist. You talk of "legitimate sporting" uses, but if any test applies,

it is, "Is the firearm in question commonly used by the militia?" If so, ownership and use is guaranteed by the Constitution.

-- Charles E. Scaggs

Your editorial showed how little you know of guns and gun laws. Under the provisions of the National Firearms Act, machine guns have been regulated since 1934. Since then it has been legal to own fully automatic weapons.

Those seeking to acquire a weapon covered under the NFA, however, must pay a $200 transfer tax, be fingerprinted and photographed and obtain written authority from their local chief of police or sheriff before the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms will accept their application. They are then subjected to a background investigation, which takes three to five months. Then the Bureau of ATF approves or denies the application. Machine guns and other weapons covered by the NFA that are unregistered cannot be registered or legally transferred and are subject to confiscation. ATF also maintains a computer file of every legally owned machine gun, and all transfers (even to law-enforcement agencies) are subject to its approval.

According to ATF not a single legally owned machine gun has been used in a violent crime since the passage of the NFA. Thus, legal machine guns are not the problem facing our police, and NRA's suit in federal court concerning the 1986 act restricting only machine guns manufactured after May 1, 1986, is not a threat to anyone ... except, perhaps, those who wish to outlaw all guns. -- Jim Morris