IT WAS TOO much to expect that gun manufacturers and industry lobbyists would rally around Maryland Gov. Glendening's call that all handguns sold in the state be fully childproof. At a hearing in Annapolis, representatives of owners, dealers and the state's largest gun manufacturer rattled off a string of reasons for opposing any such requirement, claiming that the technology to make these weapons isn't up to it. To attempt enactment of a law would put state gun dealers out of business, witnesses argued, and would give gun owners a false sense of security.

Sanford M. Abrams of the Maryland Licensed Firearms Dealers Association took the opposition a step further, calling Maryland too small a state to matter to gun makers if it were to require childproof handguns. The result could be the "extermination" of the approximately 300 dealers in the state, he warned. But this and other dire forecasts appear to assume enactment of a law with a requirement that all guns be childproofed immediately. That's not what supporters of this gun safety measure are calling for. The purpose of the legislation would be to hasten research and development already underway. While officials of the Maryland-based Beretta USA Corp. were reciting shortcomings in the development of any childproof gun, other evidence suggests that a required phase-in could and should be set, with reasonable deadlines for compliance.

The message in pressing for such a law is to accelerate industry efforts to produce weapons that can be fired only by the owners. Colt Manufacturing Co. officials have said that their company is close to developing a "personalized gun" for limited marketing, perhaps within three years. They could not attend this week's meeting but said they will display products at a future session of the governor's task force that is working on language for a childproof gun bill.

This is not Mission Impossible. And if it were, it would be all the more reason to take the most effective step to protect adults as well as kids from lethal tragedies: Ban all concealable weapons, period.