Senate Democrats shelved their gun control bill Thursday, saying that despite passionate pleas from families whose children died in December’s Connecticut rampage, they cannot muster enough votes to pass any of the major new restrictions they had hoped for.
Instead, advocates said they will step up their public campaign to try to sway opponents in the short term, with an eye to reviving the bill later this year, and also will take a look at campaigning against gun-rights supporters at the ballot box next year.
“This will allow senators to keep negotiating,” said Mr. Reid, Nevada Democrat, who vowed, “We’re going to come back to this bill.”
But he will have to see a major shift in opinions on Capitol Hill for that to happen.
On Wednesday, 41 Republicans and four Democrats joined together to block a plan to expand background checks to all private Internet and gun show sales. Current law only applies to sales by federally licensed dealers.
The Senate also defeated efforts to ban some semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
The bans had been expected to fail — but it was the background check fight that disheartened Mr. Obama and his supporters, who thought they had found an opening after two gun-rights supporters, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III and Republican Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, struck a deal.
After the defeat, the president had harsh words for opponents, accusing them of lying about the effects of expanded background checks and saying it was a “shameful” day.
Republicans fired right back:
“When good and honest people have honest differences of opinion about what policies the country should pursue about gun rights … the president of the United States should not accuse them of having no coherent arguments or of caving to the pressure,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican.
And Democrats who voted against the background check proposal shrugged off the criticism from their party chief.
“I just vote my state,” said Sen. Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat who is up for re-election next year and who has been taking pains to distance himself from some of the president’s priorities.
With the legislation on hold, the politicking began — and gun control supporters vowed retribution on Democrats and Republicans.
Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona Democrat, who has become a major gun control backer since she was shot at a 2011 town hall meeting in Tucson, penned an emotional piece in The New York Times vowing not to rest “until we have righted the wrong these senators have done.”