WHILE THE FRIENDS, lobbyists and campaign-fund recipients of the National Rifle Association are working to dismantle the few federal handgun controls on the books, the village of Friendship Heights has struck its own legal blow for firearms sanity. Barred by Montgomery County law from enacting its own regulations on guns, the Friendship Heights Village Council has found another way to disarm an arsenal: a ban on bullets. By a vote of 6 to 0, the village overseers have agreed that guns in fact do not kill people--unless said guns are loaded.

A drop in the national bucket, to be sure--and the NRA officials are treating the action with commensurate derision: "This is just a big publicity gimmick, anyway," said John Adkins of the lobby's Institute for Legislative Action, asserting that Village Council Chairman Alfred Muller was "just trying to create some hoopla to get some attention." Mr. Adkins is essentially correct, because as far as we're concerned, Dr. Muller has succeeded in getting publicity--and we're only too happy to do our part.

We may not wait up nights for that first raid inside the village limits, but there will be a bit of a deterrent there: anyone other than law enforcement officers or users of ammunition for sporting purposes who have notified authorities faces serious punishment for possessing bullets; a maximum $500 fine may be imposed on first offenders, with up to $500 and six months in jail for repeat offenders.

In time, the promoters of handguns and ammunition will probably point to the ordinance and note with great satisfaction that hardly anyone has been arrested while X number of homes have been vandalized or otherwise threatened by armed criminals. What we may never know--but can hope for--is that, with this ordinance, maybe some one life would have been saved from accidental or criminal death because the bullets weren't there. That will have justified this week's vote in the village.