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DEAR READERS: On March 30, 1981, John Hinckley walked into a gun store, bought a handgun and attempted to kill President Reagan. The bullet meant for Reagan struck his press secretary, James S. Brady, paralyzing him. Here is the letter Mr. Brady published recently in The New York Times:

"Add your voice to mine. Help me beat the gun lobby. Ever since I was shot, I have watched from my wheelchair as the gun lobby blocked one sane handgun control proposal after another."But I'm not just watching anymore. I'm calling on Congress to pass a commonsense law - the Brady Bill - requiring a seven-day `cooling off' period before the purchase of a handgun, so police will have time to check if the buyer has a criminal record.

"The Brady Bill will save thousands of lives and prevent tens of thousands of crippling injuries. Ninety-one percent of the American people - and 81 percent of American handgun owners - support it. And so does every major law enforcement organization in the country.

"In fact, it seems that the only people who oppose the Brady Bill are psychopaths, criminals, drug dealers and the gun lobby.

"So why hasn't Congress passed it? Because too many members are afraid of the gun lobby, and too many take the gun lobby's political action committee money.

"In the last six years, while handguns were killing 120,000 Americans, the gun lobby poured $4 million into Congress' pockets to block the sane handgun laws. The gun lobbyists claim that a seven-day wait is `inconvenient.' (I'd like to see one of them spend a day in my wheelchair!)

"Can we beat the gun lobby? YES - if we raise our voices together, we can send Congress a message it can't ignore: `Vote this bill in, or we'll vote you out.'

"Here's all I'm asking you to do, and it's really easy. Call 1-900-226-4455 and for only $2.75 (charged to your phone bill), we'll send a letter in your name to your representative supporting the Brady Bill. We'll also send you a copy.

"Please, help me break the gun lobby's stranglehold on Congress!" - JAMES S. BRADY

I read the above letter on Monday morning, June 25, at 7 a.m. I promptly called the above number. I received a busy signal, advising me that all the lines were busy and to stay on the line. I stayed on the line as long as I had to in order to get through. Nothing I did that day was more important than making that call.

DEAR ABBY: I clipped this item from the death notices of my local newspaper:

"The family of requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to help defray funeral expenses. Please send donations to ."

Abby, in my opinion, that request is the height of tackiness. What do you and your readers think? - SAN ANTONIO READER

DEAR READER: I think that request is the height of sadness. I do not consider a plea for help to defray funeral expenses "tacky." Being poor is no disgrace.

Everything you'll need to know about planning a wedding can be found in Abby's booklet, "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." To order, send a long, business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada), to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054. (Postage is included.)

1990 Universal Press Syndicate