Updated Post: 4:56 p.m.
Senate Republicans, backed by rural-state Democrats, blocked legislation Wednesday to tighten restrictions on the sale of firearms, rejecting personal pleas made by families of the victims of last winter's mass elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Attempts to ban assault-style rifles and high capacity ammunition magazines also faced certain defeat in a series of showdown votes four months after a gunman killed 20 elementary school children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary.
The background check measure commanded a majority of senators, 54-46, but that was well short of the 60 votes needed to advance. Forty-one Republicans and five Democrats sided together to scuttle the plan.
Orginial Post: 3:33 p.m.
Some gun rights supporters are watching the U.S. Senate today, hoping for a defeat of a Pennsylvania Republican's amendment to expand background checks on firearm sales.
Sen. Pat Toomey's amendment would expand background checks to all firearm purchases online and at gun shows but exempt private gun transfers from requiring a background check.
In Pennsylvania, checks are already mandatory for all gun sales except in the case of private citizens selling long guns.
Joe Staudt, owner of Staudt's Gun Shop in Harrisburg, Dauphin County is against the proposal - not for what it would do, but for what it represents.
"It would not change what we do here dramatically, but my concern is just kind of heading down this slippery slope and empowering the federal government with more control over the states," Staudt said.
In a conference call with reporters midday Wendesday, Toomey said he understands some opposition to his amendment is anchored in a distrust of the federal government, but he's asking his colleagues and constituents to move their focus from the slippery slope to the route mapped out in his amendment.
"I would encourage people to look at what it actually does," Toomey said.
He added that "many outside groups have mischaracterized the legislation. There have been many wildly inaccurate attributes suggested about this bill that are simply not true."
Toomey said he's hopeful the amendment will pass, though the word from Washington is the support isn't there for the bill.
"So I'm here at my desk working the phones," Toomey said. "We'll continue to work this until it's time for the vote. I expect a close vote."