BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) _ The city attorney in this town known for liberal causes is researching the possibility of conducting random searches of cars for guns in a neighborhood that has been plagued by a spate of shootings.

Manuela Albuquerque said she was in the initial stages of researching whether the legal principles applied to sobriety checkpoints and airline terminal searches could be applied to weapons checks in areas were shootings regularly occur.

''Essentially, the sobriety checkpoints treat the entire state like an airline terminal,'' she said. ''And I think protecting citizens against shooting is as legitimate, if not more legitimate, than against drunk drivers.

''The idea is to deter, not to detect, illegal conduct.''

During recent months, there have been seven shootings in one block in Berkeley. Police have doubled patrols while city workers installed street lights and planned traffic barriers designed to eliminate escape routes for drive-by shooters.

Attorney Jim Chanin, president of the Berkeley chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the plan ''basically swallows up the Fourth Amendment.''

''This will do more to violate people's rights than it will to stop crime,'' Chanin said. ''People will be particularly susceptible to arbitrary stops based on someone's race or lifestyle.''

He called it another example of Berkeley abandoning its history as ''once a proud defender of the Constitution ... in the name of the same causes as the ultraright.''

Police Review Commissioner Osha Neumann said there was no basis for extending the right to search in an airport into a neighborhood.

''I don't like Berkeley being in the forefront of treating the war on drugs and violence as a way to erode constitutional rights,'' Neumann said.