WASHINGTON – Advocates of stricter gun laws vowed Thursday to be louder and more passionate in the weeks and months ahead than gun-rights activists, who helped quash proposals to reduce gun violence this week that were widely popular among the public.
Working with a committed White House, gun-control proponents said they are mobilizing on two fronts. In the short term, they will attempt to shame opposing senators and stoke enough public outcry in their home states to force them to switch positions.
If that fails, they said, their long-term strategy is to help elect new ones.
“They clearly had a calculation that the other side had more passion and staying power. We’re going to show them that they’re wrong,” said Jon Carson, executive director of Organizing for Action, which advocates for President Barack Obama’s policy agenda but says it will not get involved in elections.
But the White House and its allies also conceded that they see no easy path ahead after Wednesday’s defeat in the Senate, where 46 senators voted to block a compromise that would have extended background checks to all commercial gun sales.
“There aren’t any immediate options,” said Matt Bennett, a senior vice president at Third Way, a centrist think tank that works with the White House on gun issues. “All of us are going to be searching for some kind of element that could change the dynamic enough to attract that handful of votes that we need, and we don’t know what that is yet.”
On Thursday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pulled the gun bill, saying the Senate would “take a pause” and asserting that “this fight is just beginning.”
For now, however, the fight will continue outside of Washington.
At the White House, officials said Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will stay vocal on the issue and do whatever they can administratively. During a conference call, Biden strategized with gun-control advocates over how to create a grassroots movement more powerful than the National Rifle Association.
Organizing for Action, which grew out of Obama’s re-election campaign, is planning dozens of events this weekend in key states and is urging its network of supporters to pepper senators’ offices with letters, tweets and calls.
Americans for Responsible Solutions, a group started by former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her astronaut husband, Mark Kelly, is preparing to air television advertisements thanking four senators — Maine Republican Susan Collins, Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu, North Carolina Democrat Kay Hagan and Arizona Republican John McCain — who voted for background checks.
The Giffords group also plans to air ads against senators who voted no.
Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democratic, said: “The NRA doesn’t operate in a vacuum any longer, and we’re going to see that on the airwaves over the next several months. We don’t have to wait until 2014 to litigate this vote.”