It occurs to us that there may be some people -- perhaps even a growing number -- who are having difficulty understanding the logic of those in Congress who would do little or nothing about the handgun-and-heavy-ammo trade in this country. But the rationale of the live-and-let-die crowd in Congress isn't all that complicated when you get past the rehearsed fulminations of the gun lobbyists. Actually, they're talking about the same thing as those of us who see no good in the easy sales of handguns and high-powered, exploding bullets: protection.

Here, in a nutshell (an apt word), is their argument: Bad people with guns threaten good people, therefore good people should be able to get guns, too. And when lots of people do get guns, there are too many around to get rid of -- a good 50 million to 60 million handguns around the country, and still going up. So instead of any attempts at preventive measures, they prefer a sort of effect-and-cause relationship: You let just about anyone who can breathe have a gun, and then wait until it's used to threaten, wound or kill someone else before you do anything.

Stiffer sentences could help, but if self-defense is the name of the game, why not get rid of all the restrictions and let people arm themselves with whatever it takes? Why shouldn't the flamingo on the lawn be replaced with a bazooka? How about a tripwire machine gun at the top of the stairs to the bedroom? And if Mom feels more comfortable with a Saturday night special in her handbag, why should she be stopped for carrying a concealed weapon? For that matter, why have regulations banning cheap foreign handguns? After all, the "right to bear arms" wasn't meant to be a buy-American law, was it?

Some of the best finding sensible solutions that strike a balance between extremes. Just as the total "decontrol" of firearms would be outlandish, so, too, would be an attempt to make anything that fires disappear from the world for good. But handguns and high-powered ammunition should go the way of that front-lawn bazooka, into the realm of things that can't be legally sold on the spot to just anybody. This is not an unreasonable request of Congress; it a proposal that deserves serious discussion -- and a national response.