In a meeting with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., assured the gun-control activists that another gun bill would be brought to the floor before the congressional midterm elections. What he couldn't promise was whether it would be successful.
"I think sometime next year we'll revisit that issue," Reid said, according to a report from The Nation. "I'm almost certain of it."
When the 113th Congress was sworn in this January, caucus lunches, floor speeches and behind-closed-door meetings were dominated by conversations about how to pass gun control in the Senate. Even after 20 first-graders had been murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Democratic leaders knew reinstating an assault weapons ban or prohibiting high-capacity magazines would be nearly impossible. But background checks, a principle the National Rifle Association had once backed and an idea that attracted upward of 80 percent public approval in April, appeared to be a legislative slam dunk.
In April, parents of those killed at Sandy Hook watched from the Senate gallery as lawmakers voted against a bipartisan background check bill.
Throughout the summer, Mayors Against Illegal Guns launched television assaults against senators who voted against the bill, and Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who crafted the bipartisan background check bill, continued to court their colleagues behind the scenes. But progress has remained stagnant.
"Sen. Toomey is still 100 percent in favor of enhanced background checks," Elizabeth Anderson, a spokesman for Toomey's office, wrote in an emailed statement. But "the Senate has spoken on this issue. He came up six votes short. There would have to be a change in the atmosphere to yield a different outcome."
Reid made it clear Thursday in his meeting with Moms Demand Action that this fall, new gun legislation will have to take a backseat to a host of fiscal showdowns slated to play out when lawmakers return from August recess.
Gun control groups are not optimistic that the 113th Congress will be the legislative body to pass something as contentious as expanding background checks.
"This Congress is pretty intractable. Getting anything through, let alone a background check that was a no brainer, is tough," says Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action.
Congress may be looking to get a break from the politics of Washington during summer recess, but Watts and her group launched a traveling lemonade stand that will appear in two dozen congressional districts across the country.
"We are making lemonade out of the lemons Congress gave us," Watts says. "We are committed. We are not going away. We believe [our action] is the opposite of what the gun lobby predicted."