Regarding the Oct. 1 editorial "Requiring Childproof Guns": The handgun industry once manufactured a number of products designed to be childproof.

At the turn of the century, for example, D. B. Wesson resolved to create a "childproof" revolver after hearing about a youngster who had accidentally shot a companion. The S & W Safety Hammerless model incorporated a safety lever in the design of the grip that required adult strength to compress before the weapon would fire.

The Safety Hammerless was a successful and long-lived model for Smith & Wesson. It was produced from the turn of the century until civilian handgun production was ended by World War II. The design was reprised in Smith & Wesson's postwar "Centennial" model. The "lemon-squeezer" safety was adopted by Harrington & Richardson, Iver Johnson and other arms makers. Colt's pocket automatic produced from 1903 through 1945 also required adult strength to use; in later models a safety disabled the weapon if the magazine containing the ammunition was removed -- achieving the same result sought by lawmakers of making a weapon inert if some essential element is not supplied by the rightful operator.

These firearms flourished for decades in the marketplace. So a historical precedent can be found for the successful introduction, marketing and commercial acceptance of "childproof" handguns without the involvement of any government body.

JAMES BEEK

Bethesda