He called it the hardest day of his public life. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., exited the Senate floor Wednesday evening after a crushing blow on gun legislation and walked directly to Newtown families he has come to know so well since December when a gunman shot his way into a Connecticut elementary school and killed 26 people.
But when Blumenthal went to assure one mother who lost her child in Newtown that "this isn't over," she turned to him and replied "this is not even close to over."
It seems while the Senate prepares to move on to immigration reform and a new round of fiscal fights, a devoted army of family-turned advocates has promised to march on.
"The public ought to be outraged and should let the Senate know that they won't take 'no' for an answer," Blumenthal says. "We are simply not going to fail."
The Senate voted down a bipartisan amendment Wednesday 54-46 that would have expanded background checks to private online sales and exchanges at gun shows, but families who have been affected by gun violence pledged Wednesday evening not to abandon their public outreach.
"My sister didn't die for nothing. We will make change," says 20-year-old Carlee Soto. Victoria Soto, a teacher in Newtown, died protecting her students.
Since Monday, Soto and others have been making appeals on Capitol Hill to convince wavering senators to support the background check legislation. She says many lawmakers told her that they couldn't support the bill because it was too restrictive and would be time consuming for gun owners.
"Their reasons why they weren't going to vote weren't good enough reasons," Soto says."[It's] time consuming? Newtown shooting took three minutes. You cannot take three minutes out of your day to fill out a background check? That is nonsense and it's disgusting."
One woman in the Senate gallery yelled out "shame on you" as the Senate fell six votes short of passing the background check amendment. Vice President Joe Biden presided over the vote and former Rep. Gabby Giffords, R-Ariz., who was shot in the head during a town hall meeting in 2011, met with lawmakers up until the very last minute hoping to get some to reconsider their positions against the bill.
"The United States Senate let down an awful lot of people today including those Newtown families and I don't know how anybody who looked them in the eye could have voted the way they did today," Biden said as he left the Capitol. "It is time for the American people to make it clear how displeased they are with this vote."
While gun-control advocates promised not to abandon their cause, gun rights supporters applauded the Senate's protection of the Second Amendment.
The National Rifle Association sent out a statement minutes after the vote thanking lawmakers for blocking legislation they say would infringe on rights and do nothing to curb gun violence.
"This amendment would have criminalized certain private transfers of firearms between honest citizens, requiring lifelong friends, neighbors and some family members to get federal government permission to exercise a fundamental right or face prosecution," Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRA, said in a statement. "As we have noted previously, expanding background checks, at gun shows or elsewhere, will not reduce violent crime or keep our kids safe in their schools."
The gun legislation is likely dormant for awhile, but a procedural move will allow Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring the bill back up for consideration at a later date, something he says he intends to do.
"This issue is not going away," Reid said during a press conference after the vote. "The families deserve better."