We were shocked when Congress allowed the 1994 ban on assault weapons to expire 10 years later. It seemed that our representatives were immune to the killings and mass killings that we saw in the news.

The killing continued, and finally the Newtown, Conn., massacre has brought many people to their senses — even many members of the National Rifle Association.

We realize that owning firearms is a tradition in the United States and do not oppose ownership of traditional firearms used for hunting and target practice, such as rifles and even handguns.

We strongly oppose ownership of semi-automatic assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. These weapons facilitate mass killings. We also uphold background checks of all people attempting to purchase any firearm from any seller. Loopholes allowing gun sales without background checks — at gun shows, for example — make it easy for potential criminals or mentally unstable people to purchase them.

There are those who will argue that such laws will not be effective. That is a useless argument. It is unconscionable to do nothing — to hope that the children killed in Newtown will quickly fade from the headlines — to turn our backs on the next victims.

The United States is a civilized country. It is time we acted civilized.

We urge you to continue your coverage of this issue, and we urge our representatives here in Maine and in Washington, D.C., to vote to for a ban on assault rifles, to limit the capacity of magazines and to require background checks of all those who purchase firearms.

Al and Vicki Adams

Kennebunk

As a gun owner and hunter for more than 50 years, I am saddened and appalled at the National Rifle Association’s use of the Second Amendment as an excuse for opposing sensible gun control.

Ignoring the evidence that guns do not make us safer and simultaneously promoting a sense of paranoia among its members make a mockery of the innocent people killed by guns every day in America.

As a practicing emergency physician, if I were to ignore evidence as compelling as what we see in our streets, I would be sued for malpractice. Please join me in encouraging our congressional delegation to support the current efforts to reduce gun violence.

Tony Owens, M.D.

Cape Elizabeth

South Portlanders urged to speak up against tar sands

Cities and towns in New England are mobilizing to express their opposition to the possible transport of tar sands through a reversed pipeline running from Montreal through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine to Pier II in South Portland.

Many thoughtful people have taken the trouble to learn about this issue. And many people have concluded that tar sands are just too great a risk to our environment in many ways.

For our own backyard, sending tar sands through a 62-year-old pipeline invites the very real possibility of a spill of this abrasive and toxic substance in one or another our precious waterways along its route.

For the global environment, this is the dirtiest, most polluting form of oil on the planet.

We do not want to be complicit in dumping this into the world market. South Portland has a real opportunity to impact decisions about use of this pipeline.

The South Portland City Council is holding a public meeting Monday at 6 p.m. at the South Portland Community Center to discuss this issue. I, for one, plan to be there and hope that many concerned citizens will make their voices heard.

Mary-Jane Ferrier

South Portland

Carter’s school board tenure will be asset to City Council

As often happens in South Portland, there are a number of fine candidates running for City Council on Tuesday. I am writing to urge voters to support Rick Carter.

I worked closely on several projects with Rick during my time on the City Council, particularly during the year that he was chairman of the school committee.

Rick knows the South Portland schools inside and out, and he will bring to the council firsthand knowledge of the department that consumes nearly two-thirds of the municipal budget.

Rick also appreciates the need to prioritize judiciously to keep the public infrastructure up to date in our city. He knows that letting the city’s buildings and equipment fall into disrepair is expensive in the long run, and can jeopardize the safety and comfort of the public.

At the same time, he is keenly aware of need to keep public spending within reasonable bounds, to seek efficiencies in the delivery of public services, and to protect vulnerable taxpayers from the impacts of increases in the local tax rates.

Rick has a level-headed sense of fairness and an appreciation for teamwork that will serve the residents of South Portland well.

He will help keep South Portland the vibrant, diverse and well-governed city that we as citizens have become used to over recent years.

Tom Coward

Cumberland County commissioner, District 4

South Portland

Disregard for pedestrians spoils enjoyment of city

I have just moved to Portland from San Francisco and am loving my new city. Even in the winter months, I’m finding the cultural attractions like the museum and the library, as well all kinds of nooks and crannies, meeting friendly people almost everywhere I go.

I choose to walk around the city, for exercise and to save fossil fuel. However, getting around Portland on foot is a nightmare.

Crosswalk paint barely visible. Broken pedestrian call lights. Intersections with no crosswalk at all. Drivers pulling up into intersections without respecting the crosswalks. Drivers at stop signs who look right at me waiting to cross and drive through anyway. I get dirty looks from drivers, as though my presence is an inconvenience.

An environmentally progressive town like Portland should be celebrating those of us who get around on foot, and make pedestrians a traffic priority, as they are in earth-friendly cities elsewhere. Pedestrians should always have the right of way.

Beth Duddy

Portland