An amendment that would have allowed gun owners to carry their weapons across state lines fell just short of passage Wednesday in a vote that revealed deep divisions among the Senate's Democrats.
Supporters included all but two Republicans and 20 Democrats, but the vote of 58 to 39 in favor fell two short of the 60 needed to defeat a filibuster.
Despite its defeat, the amendment, sponsored by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), demonstrated the continuing power of the National Rifle Association and the gun rights issue in Congress. Rather than a setback, those backing the effort consider the vote a sign of strength for the Second Amendment and are planning more gun-related amendments to other legislation throughout the year. Afterward, Thune said he hopes the Senate will "reconsider this important issue" later this year.
It split not only Democrats, many of whom got to the Senate by supporting gun rights, but also the caucus's leadership: Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), campaigning for reelection in 2010, voted yes, while his top lieutenants, Sens. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.) and Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), led the push by liberal Democrats against the measure.