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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I need to know how I can legally get rid of a military .45-caliber handgun that I have had since I was in the U.S. Army back in 1943. It was issued to me prior to my being shipped overseas.

When I was discharged, the parachute and most of the other equipment I had been issued was requisitioned back by the military, but no mention was ever made of the gun, or the 1 1/2 clips of ammunition that I still possess. (In all of this time, I have never fired the gun.)

I want to return the gun to the government, but I don't want to find myself in hot water for having possessed it all this time as a civilian. Since the gun is plainly marked "U.S. Property," I am wondering if my civilian possession of it all these years may have somehow been illegal ever since my discharge. -- WONDERING IN SAN JOSE

DEAR WONDERING: According to Sherry Lawrence of the Personnel Command Public Affairs Office of the Army, the failure of the military to reclaim the weapon at the time of your discharge was probably the result of a paperwork slip-up.

Because the weapon is old and probably has not been maintained, it may be a safety hazard.

Call your local police department and explain that you have a weapon from World War II that needs to be safely disposed of. They will either advise you to bring it in, or offer to pick it up.

I advise you not to handle it -- lock it up until you either deliver it to the local police or they pick it up. Peace of mind is only a telephone call away.

DEAR ABBY: Recently we had a devastasting fire in the East Bay hills of Berkeley and Oakland. There were many lives lost -- people and animals injured, and countless homes destroyed.

In the days after the fire, the San Francisco Chronicle printed stories of personal loss. Those who were able to escape from their homes with a few personal treasures mentioned that they grabbed photographs! This brought to mind that perhaps one of the best things family and friends of those who have lost their homes can do is to go through their own personal photo collections and choose photos to give the family who has sustained this tragic loss.

Negatives can be made from photographs, and perhaps some of the local film developers could offer a discount on the process for this particular group of individuals. It would be a small way to give people back parts of their lives. -- SYLVIA CLONINGER, BELMONT, CALIF.

DEAR SYLVIA: Only a person with a generous heart would have thought of the above. Take a bow, Sylvia!

DEAR ABBY: Can you stand one more letter about tattoos?

The only difference between tattooed people and non-tattooed people is: Tattooed people don't care if you're not tattooed. -- TOM THE TATTOOED TYPESETTER, SEATTLE

Most teen-agers do not know the facts about drugs, AIDS, and how to prevent unwanted pregnancy. It's all in Abby's updated, expanded booklet, "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054. (Postage is included.)

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