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DEAR ABBY: Daddy died a year ago. He was an avid sportsman who left behind a large gun collection. Mama is planning to sell it, with the help of a close friend of Daddy's.

This friend told Mama a few weeks ago that he thought some of the guns were missing. After some encouragement, she filed a police report. To make a long story short, some of the guns were located in a pawn shop. The thief was my baby sister "Jan's" fiance. He admitted to Mama that he took the guns a month after Daddy died. He had a key to the house and found the key to the gun cabinet, which she had hidden in her underwear drawer.

Mama has not pressed charges because of my sister. Jan claims she "loves" this felon. She says he is "so sorry" and "remorseful" and she knew nothing about the theft. Abby, my sister's 12-year-old daughter lives in the house with them, and her natural father is ignorant of this whole mess. Jan says she and her fiance have been to a counselor, who told them they should stay together.

Mama now feels violated and unsafe in her own home. We find it unbelievable that Jan can even look this guy in the eye, much less continue to live with him. Her financial picture is not good, and our parents gave her money for years that they could not afford. I think the guy belongs in jail, but only Mom can bring charges. As long as this thief is in Jan's life, our family will be in turmoil. What should we do? -- STABBED IN THE BACK IN VIRGINIA

DEAR STABBED IN THE BACK: Your sister's fiance appears to be a sociopath or druggie -- possibly both -- and I doubt whether any licensed counselor told her they should stay together. The man must no longer be allowed in your mother's home, and her locks should be changed to ensure it.

Your niece's father should be informed about everything that has transpired. If he doesn't want custody, your niece should be assured that she can come to you if she needs to talk to you about "anything." Although you cannot force your mother to put your sister's fiance in jail, that is where he belongs. By not pressing charges, your mother is enabling him to continue his criminal behavior.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I both came from "the wrong side of the tracks," but have done better than the odds predicted we could for ourselves and our children. We have a 2-year-old and a newborn, both planned.

Recently, my mother-in-law, "Martha," was arrested by Children's Social Services and my 11-year-old sister-in-law was removed from her care. My husband and I have discussed attempting to get custody before, so this could be a blessing in disguise.

My problem is I do not want Martha in my home. My mother-in-law stole credit cards and bank cards from me when she was our roommate. Because we have babies in the house and are doing so well -- I have a job and am completing my college degree, and my husband is also employed and will be starting school soon -- I do not want this person in my house. We have worked too long and hard for what we have. Can you give us any suggestions? Lord knows we could use some help. -- MEGAN IN MIAMI

DEAR MEGAN: Considering your mother-in-law's history, your reasons for not wanting her in your house are understandable. Because she was arrested for abusing (or neglecting) her daughter, it's possible that she could be considered a danger to the child and ordered by the court to stay away from her and your house. Please look into it. An attorney can help you.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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