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DEAR ABBY: As a policeman, I was very disappointed to read (8/29) about the fellow officer who leaves his duty weapon out on the kitchen table. Even if there were no children in the house, it's an extremely dangerous thing to do.

We are supposed to take gun safety seriously. I find it disturbing when fellow officers do not. We are taught from day one to never, ever lose control of our sidearm. And "retention" holsters, designed to make it difficult to remove the sidearm, can and do fail.

I would strongly suggest that "Upset in Washington" talk one more time to her husband. He could lose his job over this. Or she could buy a small gun safe, and next time she finds the gun on the table, lock it up for him. Notice, I didn't say anything about giving him the combination.

I am very pro-gun and pro-self-defense. But that comes with the great responsibility of keeping weapons out of the hands of those who would misuse them, either by accident or on purpose. -- DISMAYED IN COLORADO

DEAR DISMAYED: Although I heard from more than a few readers who thought my advice to report the officer to his police chief was harsh, I think you are being too soft. Read on for a sample of the horror stories that letter generated:

DEAR ABBY: I am a law enforcement officer in Texas. A fellow officer lost his teenage daughter to suicide. Even though his gun had been hidden in a high cupboard, away from view, she found it and, unfortunately, succeeded in terminating her young life.

"Upset in Washington" should check to see if the police department in her city has regulations about this. Maybe she should call and speak to his supervisor and ask about the availability of gun locks for the weapon issued to her husband. This needs to be done ASAP. -- OFFICER IN TEXAS

DEAR ABBY: Your advice was right on. That wife should definitely report her husband to his chief. In our city a year ago, a police officer's son got ahold of his loaded gun and shot and killed his 5-year-old sister. Officers in our area are now required to lock up their guns at all times when off duty. Kids just don't realize the danger, so parents have to. -- SHARON IN VANCOUVER, WASH.

DEAR ABBY: Years ago, I worked for a federal law enforcement agency in New York. One of the agents came home from a late-night investigation and, not wanting to wake his wife and 3-year-old son, decided to sleep on the couch. Before retiring, he removed his weapon and placed it under the couch.

Apparently his son woke up early and found the gun. He couldn't pull the trigger with one finger, so he pointed the gun toward himself and, with both thumbs on the trigger, he fired. The result was, of course, fatal.

The agent and his wife had tried for years to have a child and were thrilled to tears when she became pregnant. How sad their happiness was so short-lived. Please have "Upset" show this letter to her irresponsible husband. Maybe he'll get the message. -- UPSET WHEN I THINK ABOUT IT IN LEBO, KAN.

DEAR ABBY: I lost my son three years ago under these very circumstances. My sister, a police officer, failed to secure her weapon. "Upset" should personally hand-deliver her husband's gun to the police chief the next time it is lying around. God forbid, one of their children, or their children's friends, gets ahold of it and causes yet another senseless tragedy. -- MISSING OUR SON IN MILWAUKEE

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