Aside from cars, few inanimate objects seem to be so widely discussed as guns, and four incidents in the Washington area last week helped suggest the pervasiveness of firearms and, in one case, their possible usefulness.

The incident that appeared to demonstrate the utility of a firearm occurred Sept. 3 in Prince William County.

According to the police, two Manassas residents, a man, 38, and a woman, 34, were assaulted there by three men whom they knew.

The attack, in the 8400 block of Stoney Lane, came in the course of an argument, and it apparently ended, according to the police account, when one of the two assault victims showed a gun.

A police statement said a victim "brandished a firearm in self-defense and the suspects fled."

Police reported three arrests.

In the latest of the firearms incident, police in Frederick Md., said they were told that shots had been fired in Carrollton Park shortly before 5 p.m. Saturday. "Luckily," they said, "no one was hurt."

In the two other firearms incidents, shots were apparently fired in residential neighborhoods with no known motive.

In one incident, police were told Friday night that shots had been heard near 18th and A streets SE, in the Hill East area.

Police said they found that someone had stood in the intersection, firing a handgun.

In Fairfax County, police said shots were reported shortly after midnight Thursday in the 3800 block of Birchwood Road, in the quiet Lake Barcroft area.

Ammunition casings were later found in front of a home.

No injuries were reported in either incident, but both are being investigated.

Although there are many guns in the area, it is not all firearms here. Fairfax County police said the annual effort to reduce the deer population was to begin Saturday. The deer-slaying technique was to be archery.