For years I believed in the seemingly sane arguments about the need to pass and maintain strict gun control laws. I had no particular reason to believe that I would ever feel the need to exercise my Second Amendment right to bear arms. However, Oct. 10 changed that.

After living peacefully in the Bloomingdale section of Washington for 17 years, I had an intruder break into my home on a weekday afternoon. My guard dog had been immobilized. I came upon the man as he was entering my home through an upstairs window. I ran. It does not take much imagination to think about what might have happened to me if I had reacted more slowly.

I grew up in the Midwest. My parents took precautions to keep their children safe from weapons. But guns had their place in our household for one clear and important reason -- protection.

The presumption that our wealth of laws and modern conveniences have created a benign and safe society is a delusion. Maybe it was true once in Washington, but the violent drug culture has changed that. We are being attacked on the streets and in our homes. As well-meaning as the police department may be, it simply cannot respond instantaneously or be everywhere it's needed.

If D.C. residents could more easily bear arms, it wouldn't turn them into vigilantes or Dirty Harrys. But having an appropriate weapon for legal protection would help innocent people face some of the challenges they meet regularly in this city. Let us not forget that we have crack addicts roaming the streets, unemployed, untreated and aggressive. They have no reason to fear us, no reason to feel that when they violate our homes and therefore ourselves that they will encounter any particular challenge.

When the D.C. Council passed the country's most stringent gun control law in 1976, it could not have foreseen the dangerous place this city would become. But how can the council continue to ignore the facts that our police have significant limitations on their ability to respond to citizens in trouble or that law-abiding voters represent enticing opportunities to some of the criminal element?

I have seen nothing proposed or practiced to protect us from these marauders. I encourage D.C. citizens to read the city's gun control laws, because they are instructive on how severely limited is our ability to own weapons here. A reading of the laws should stimulate a discussion on whether certain exceptions to them should be made. -- Beverly A. Mitchell