THE DEADLY ENEMY of America's law enforcement authorities -- S.49, the bill they refer to with good reason as "the cop-killer bill" -- has a new, ugly offshoot in the House that has just been fathered by the handgun pushers under the guise of a "compromise." The National Rifle (and Handgun Above All) Association and its trained House-pet, Rep. Harold L. Volkmer, have just jiggered a few sentences of S.49 for quick sale on the House floor. But 11 principal law enforcement organizations warned yesterday that the Volkmer "substitute" still contains "gravely dangerous provisions that pose an immediate and unwarranted threat to American citizens and the law enforcement officers sworn to protect them."

The question today, as the House prepares for debate on gun traffic, is which members will side with the law enforcement authorities against the Volkmer bill to legalize interstate sale and transport of concealable handguns -- and which members will vote for a good bill that the House Judiciary Committee approved in a solidly bipartisan 35-to-0 vote.

The Volkmer Son-of-S.49 rewrite angers the police, sheriffs, state troopers and public safety protectors because it, too, "fails to meet the concerns of American law enforcement for safe, sane federal gun legislation." They also oppose this substitute because it "would carve out massive loopholes in federal gun licensing provisions," including allowing unrecorded sales of handguns by unlicensed sellers.

That would jeopardize all sorts of efforts to combat crime, which is the pure and simple reason for the authorities' opposition. In contrast, they strongly support H.R.4332 as approved by the House Committee. As they noted yesterday, the House bill "substantially meets interests of American law enforcement as well as the legitimate needs of American hunters and sportsmen."

That's what the NRA used to be interested in, before it started using its collected funds to push all kinds of handgun traffic that has nothing substantive to do with the interests of law-abiding Americans who own firearms or who choose not to. For once, maybe some of the NRA-supported disciples in the House will recognize this distinction and stand up against the handgun pushers, against S.49, against the Volkmer substitute -- and for H.R.4332, the bill their committee has unanimously recommended.