By Samuel Burke, CNN
Twenty U.S. schoolchildren and six teachers were murdered in a single rampage in Newtown, Connecticut last December. With nowhere to turn, the victims’ families dedicated the next months of their lives to try to change America’s gun laws.
Some started out with the hope of comprehensive of reform, including a ban on military-style assault weapons. President Obama enlisted the families’ support, but as the months went on his proposal was quickly watered down to mainly background checks.
Ninety-one percent of Americans now support universal background checks for gun purchases, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.
But now, with the defeat of a bill in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, it appears that any type of gun reform is quickly fading away. The legislation didn’t pass, even though the majority of senators – 54 out of 100 – voted in favor of the legislation.
“This is really a defining moment about American democracy,” legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday. “So many factors came together to defeat this bill.”
Toobin cited the power of states, the enduring appeal of guns in the country, and the power of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate.
The current use of the filibuster is relatively new, Toobin explained. Previously, it was only a tool used to hold off a vote until a supermajority of 60 senators voted to end debate in extraordinary circumstances.
“How the Senate has evolved in recent years – particularly since President Obama has taken office – is that essentially everything is filibustered. So it takes 60 senators to accomplish anything in the United States Senate,” Toobin said.
After the defeat, President Obama was flanked by the Newtown families and Gabrielle Giffords at the White House – Giffords is the former congresswoman who survived being shot in the head.
Obama declared the gun lobby had “willfully lied” to the American people and defended the Newton families in their fight.
“I’ve heard folks say that having the families of the victims lobby for this legislation was somehow misplaced. ‘A prop,’ somebody called it – emotional blackmail,” Obama said. “Are they serious?”
Last month, Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy told Amanpour that Newtown victims’ families were clinging to the hope of gun reform.
“Many of them are able to get up in the morning because they believe that this world is going to change as a consequence of this tragedy. And I do shudder to think what I'm going to tell some of these families if we can't even get background checks passed in the United States Senate.”
Now, the senator must face those parents and tell them that it will not happen for the time being.