An amendment to the federal gun control bill that would have expanded background checks on gun sales was blocked by a 54-46 vote in the U.S. Senate Wednesday afternoon.
The measure would have expanded rules that already apply to gun dealers' sales, preventing mentally ill people, convicted felons and people convicted of domestic violence from purchasing weapons.
In addition to the background checks measure, the Senate defeated measures banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.
The background checks measure, which would have needed 60 votes to pass, was part of a bipartisan agreement reached last week by Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
But after intense lobbying by the NRA, the vast majority of Republicans, and a handful of Democrats, decided to oppose the measure.
"It doesn't target violent criminals," said Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. "Instead, what it does is target law-abiding citizens."
Most Republican lawmakers opposed the amendment, claiming it would infringe on the Second Amendment and create a gun registry, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blasted those claims as completely false.
Following the veto, leading Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama held separate press conferences, and quoted a recent Quinnipiac University poll that found that only 8 percent of respondents opposed universal background checks.
Obama made his speech alongside former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who is both a gun owner and a victim of gun violence, and families of victims of the Newtown and Columbine mass shootings.
The president said, "All in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington." He also claimed the gun lobby "willfully lied" about the effects of the bill, saying even the National Rifle Association has previously supported expanded background checks.
"Ninety percent of Americans support that idea. Most Americans think that's already the law. And a few minutes ago, 90 percent of Democrats in the Senate voted for that idea. But it's not going to happen, because 90 percent of Republicans in the Senate just voted against that idea," Obama said.
Leading Democratic senators promised that they would continue to fight for the passage of gun control.
"Don't give up faith. Things change quickly up here in Washington. They've changed for gay marriage. They're changing for immigration. And they will change for gun safety sooner than you think," Sen. Charles Schumer said. "We will win this fight. When the American people are on our side, when right is on our side, it takes a long time for these wheels of democracy to grind forward, but they will."
In a statement, Mayor Michael Bloomberg calls the Senate voting down background checks a "damning indictment of the stranglehold that special interests have on Washington."
Bloomberg also promises his advocacy group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, will work to defeat opponents of gun control in the 2014 elections, saying "our ever-expanding coalition of supporters will work to make sure that voters don't forget."
The NRA applauded the Senate veto, saying in a statement the measure 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."