The chief lobbyists of the National Rifle Association may gloat over their success in getting their paid army of House members to soften up this country's gun laws. But there is more than a little evidence that members of Congress, law enforcement officers and people in general are fed up with the NRA's tactics as well as its narrow dogma. In one rare and important defeat of the NRA, the House did vote yesterday to retain a ban on the interstate sales of handguns. Though this is status quo and hardly progress, the NRA has been pressing long and hard for a lifting of any restrictions on interstate traffic in concealable weapons.

And it is precisely this NRA attitude that has infuriated police, sheriffs, state troopers, public safety protectors and widows and family members of law enforcement authorities all around the country. They are the people who suffer most in the battle to control crime -- and they have been pleading with Congress for this provision and others that would help them do their jobs and live to tell about it. And while they were pleased to have cracked the NRA's hold for once, they are still angry at the organization and at the individual House members who ignored their pleas.

Officials of the D.C. chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police -- the country's largest police organization -- said yesterday they will ask local FOP members to drop their NRA memberships. Thomas Tague, president of the local FOP, which has about 6,100 members in various law enforcement agencies in this area, said he also will ask national officials for support in helping to persuade the estimated 180,000 members around the country to quit the NRA as well. "The NRA is no longer a friend of law enforcement," said Gary Hankins, labor committee chairman for the local group. "They have become a lobbyist organization for gun dealers, not sportsmen. . . . This bill is very dangerous to us and very dangerous to the community. . . . We will have more people to honor, more dead to mourn in the coming years."

That, and not the legitimate interests of law-abiding gun owners, is what the NRA and its heavy political contributions are about these days -- and if public safety is threatened by it, give their lobbyists and those who do their bidding on the Hill full credit.