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“I think gun control advocates are right to be discouraged … but this is sort of the failure they’ve been having for some time,” Mr. Hudak said. “That said, I think Newtown was the best opportunity to get something done, and they were unable to do it.”

Even if the Senate manages to come back and pass something, it would still have to get through the Republican-controlled House. Asked if meeting with Newtown families left him with any new thoughts about how to tackle the country’s gun issue, House Speaker John A. Boehner said Bob Goodlatte, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, and Tim Murphy, Pennsylvania Republican, who has looked at mental health issues involved, have been working.

“And I’m hopeful that they’ll continue their work,” Mr. Boehner said.

Mr. Hudak said one silver lining for advocates from the past six months is that for really the first time, the gun control lobby has an organized structure and resources to push its agenda in the form of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, co-founded by New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, as well as other groups.

Mr. Bloomberg’s group and the NRA have been airing ads either targeting or thanking key senators for their votes on the measure sponsored by Joe Manchin III and Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican. But Sen. Mark L. Pryor, Arkansas Democrat and one of four Democratic senators to oppose the bill, is actually using Mr. Bloomberg’s targeting as a cudgel for his re-election campaign.

Mr. Reid said Thursday that he considers Mr. Bloomberg a friend and talked with him this week.

“To have Republicans control the Senate is a sure sign you will never, ever get anything done,” Mr. Reid said. “I have given my input; I’m confident that he’ll listen. But … he’s kind of a free spirit. And a very rich one.”