In mistakenly assuming that armed robbery and home invasion are the gravest threats to personal safety, Jeffrey Grant likely misses the real value of the recent D.C. gun buyback program [letters, Sept. 2].

While it is true that buyback programs result in many guns being removed from the households of people unlikely to be violent criminals, "older couples, grandparents . . . and an awful lot of women," Mr. Grant's assertion that "these groups might have legitimate reason to own a firearm for defense against the gun-carrying criminals in the D.C. area who did not participate in the program" is dangerously misleading.

Research strongly supports the conclusion that gun owners (and sadly, their families, too) are far more likely to be the victims of a suicide or accidental shooting than they are to successfully ward off an attacker. Statistically, law-abiding citizens are at much greater risk of being harmed by their own guns (or those of relatives) than by violent criminals.

The enduring myth of the illusionary safety firearms ownership affords remains one of our nation's great tragedies. We suffer its consequences daily. The true benefit of buyback programs lies not in any resultant decrease in crime, but rather in improved public safety. The D.C. police department and government should be commended. The fact that the program is funded through seized drug money and participation is voluntary probably will silence even the gun lobby critics.

RICHARD E. LING

Great Falls