And yet, after the carnage in December that killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., the shootings of teenagers in Miami’s Overtown and Liberty City, the drive-by killing of a mother talking with a friend outside her home in Liberty City — after all of that and so much more from coast to coast — Congress still seems unable to ban assault weapons.

These are not quick fixes. They must be part of a comprehensive plan that has to include more funding for mental health services and better security at our schools.

Banning weapons won’t ensure that criminals or the mentally ill don’t get high-capacity semiautomatics or any kind of handgun, for that matter, illegally. But at least it won’t be as easy.

No one should be able to buy a weapon on the Internet or at a gun show without the seller checking the buyer for a criminal record or whether that person was institutionalized for emotional problems.

The National Rifle Association holds the Second Amendment sacrosanct — and the lawmakers who fear the NRA’s political clout aren’t budging. Yet the vast majority of Americans — and polls show a majority of NRA members, too — want universal background checks. And the courts have long upheld that the Second Amendment (like virtually all other constitutional rights) has common-sense limits.

For instance, Americans cannot buy machine guns — except for a small number of people holding special licenses. You don’t own a machine gun for protection. You don’t use it to shoot duck or deer for dinner. It’s a war weapon — as are many of the assault-style rifles that can be rigged to shoot multiple rounds virtually nonstop.

Reinstating the ban on assault-style weapons, as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has been pushing for, also would make it more difficult for gangs to get their hands on rapid-fire weapons. Yet the proposed ban on such weapons and high-capacity magazines is now dead on arrival. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has decided they’re too controversial.

Instead, Senate legislation would expand background checks to close the loopholes that now allow sales on the Internet and at gun shows without the checks. And it would give police more tools to track gun traffickers and stolen weapons. At the very least a universal background check of all buyers should be mandatory.

Let there be no doubt. The next massacre — like the one averted at UCF — will happen because a fearful Congress was more beholden to the NRA than to the citizens who elected them.

Editorial by The Miami Herald

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.