AS D.C. COUNCIL member H. R. Crawford of Ward 7 has noted, there are many people in the city who are "disturbed and frightened" by the threat of violent crime. Here, as in other cities, one of the biggest worries shared by older people in particular is that they might be victims of crime-- even though, according to the National Institute on Aging, the rates of murder, rape and assault are very low among the elderly. Still, crimes that do affect older people include purse snatching, vandalism and harassment. Is the answer to let young and old register and stock loaded handguns?

Mr. Crawford says yes. He proposes that the city lift its ban on handguns for up to 90 days to permit any residents who could demonstrate to police that they had "a need" for guns to register them. Businessmen, too, would be able to legitimize behind- the-counter firearms because police "can't be everywhere."

True, they can't--but they do know a little something about when and how to fire their weapons, which is more than can be said about those who are not on the force. Just how "protected" will people feel when anyone around them may have a loaded handgun--including, as one council witness proposed, his wife, who is pregnant and who, he said, should be able to carry a handgun strapped to her side, with a quick-release holster if necessary?

No, thanks. Public safety is everybody's concern and the police department's assignment. Turning the job over to armed frightened people is frightening in itself.