Dec. 14 will mark the one-year anniversary of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Since that time, Congress has failed to take any action to strengthen our gun laws.

Despite overwhelming public support, the Toomey-Manchin bill requiring background checks on private gun sales has stalled in the Senate. Eighty-nine percent of Mainers think there should be background checks on all gun sales.

Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King are both still strong supporters of the background check bill. They both voted in favor of the bill when it came before the Senate in April and have said they will vote “yes” on the bill when it comes up again. Rep. Chellie Pingree was an early co-sponsor of H.R. 1565, the House version of Toomey-Manchin.

Rep. Mike Michaud is the only member of the Maine congressional delegation who has not taken a definitive stand on background checks. He says that he supports background checks and would vote for Toomey-Manchin when it comes to the House floor, yet he refuses to co-sponsor H.R. 1565.

There is nothing in Michaud’s voting record to indicate that he truly supports background checks. During his years in Congress, he has consistently voted with the National Rifle Association and has earned an A-minus rating from the organization. It should be noted that the NRA opposes Toomey-Manchin.

Rep. Michaud needs to add his name to the 186 co-sponsors already on H.R. 1565 and help move the bill forward. He should understand what powerful symbolism there is in having an NRA A-minus-rated congressman co-sponsor a bill requiring background checks on gun purchasers.

Now is not the time for silence and inaction.

Cathie Whittenburg

consultant, States United to Prevent Gun Violence

Portland

Maintaining Iran sanctions key to nuclear, peace issues

I have read Ed McCarthy’s Dec. 2 Maine Voices column, “Reflexive support of Israel should not derail Middle East peace efforts.”

Mr. McCarthy’s piece contains many complaints about Israel and U.S. support for Israel, but it is aimed most directly and negatively at Congress and Sen. Susan Collins. He admonishes Sen. Collins and others not to interfere with the administration’s peace-making efforts by supporting or adopting additional sanctions on Iran.

I share Mr. McCarthy’s desire to deny Iran access to nuclear weapons by diplomatic means, and I applaud the progress the administration has recently made in this regard. Mr. McCarthy chooses to ignore or downplay, however, the fact that the diplomatic process has made progress solely because of the sting of harsh sanctions.

The leaders of Iran have not finally come to the negotiating table because they want to be our ally or because they no longer despise the very existence of Israel. The leaders of Iran are talking to us because it is in their own self-interest to have the sanctions lifted. We should applaud the actions of successive U.S. administrations and the U.S. Congress, including Sen. Collins, in approving, implementing and showing worldwide leadership with respect to these sanctions.

Moreover, the leadership of Iran must understand that if it fails to use the six-month window to reach a comprehensive settlement that assures the world that Iran cannot and will not seek to develop nuclear weapons, harsher and more painful sanctions will ensue.

By keeping the pressure on Iran, the U.S. Congress will continue to create the conditions that can lead to a peaceful resolution of the crisis caused by Iran’s rush toward development of a nuclear weapon. The alternatives to a diplomatic solution are awful to contemplate. We should thank Sen. Collins for her continued steadfastness in supporting sanctions against Iran.

Benjamin Marcus

Cumberland

Relocation of DHHS office should be reconsidered

So little time. So many issues. Where to begin? I know. The Department of Health and Human Services.

Being a naturally cynical person, I went around the house muttering that it sounded like a ploy by the administration to make the services of the DHHS as difficult as possible to obtain, thereby lowering the demands of clients.

I never thought that I would see my paranoid muttering in print, as stated by Mary Mayhew (“Maine DHHS chief: Medicaid expansion ‘unsustainable,’ ” Dec. 5).

To paraphrase, Ms. Mayhew said in a radio interview that locating the offices of the DHHS in the same building as the Department of Labor would help the poor get off welfare.

How? Can she explain that, considering all the social and personal problems, like statewide high unemployment, being a child, disabled or elderly, that are preventing people from finding jobs?

This sentence in the Press Herald story – “The administration says the move would save the state about $14 million” – seems to be more to the point.

Thanks for balancing the article by including quotes from House Speaker Mark Eves and Senate President Justin Alfond. Considering the outpouring of citizen protest, perhaps this decision will be reconsidered.

Rachel Schwartz

South Portland

Tea party members have the right to free speech

Out of the ranting letters against the tea party the Portland Press Herald has printed recently, the last one, by a three-year Army veteran, is so disturbing that I have to respond (“Tea party obstructionists only interested in themselves,” Dec. 4).

I’m a retired Navy veteran with 27 years of service. One reason I served was to protect the right of free speech for all Americans, including members of the tea party. These people seem to be doing whatever is necessary to not doom our country’s future generations to paying back a massive national debt because of our present out-of-control government spending.

The only thing more ridiculous than to allege that such people incite violence is the notion that we veterans don’t care about America unless we stand by a commander in chief who continues to indebt America beyond our generation’s ability to pay.

But the most disturbing part of this letter is the author’s demand for “a process for removing them (tea party members) when they are obstructing the stability and progress of our country.”

Not too long ago, communist governments removed people for “obstructing” their progress with a process of imprisonment in gulags. Is this what the author has in mind?

Ted Sirois

Saco