On April 17, the bill to expand background checks on gun buyers failed in the Senate, and the fatalistic shrugs in Washington were so numerous they were nearly audible. The legislation had been a modest bipartisan compromise, supported by 90 percent of the public and lobbied for hard by the president. A group backed by Michael Bloomberg had spent $12 million on ads pressuring senators to vote “yes.” When the bill fell short—by just five votes—it seemed to confirm a Beltway article of faith: There’s no point messing with the National Rifle Association (NRA). And that, many assumed, was the last we’d be hearing about gun reform.
But then something unexpected happened. Some of the senators who’d voted “no” faced furious voters back home. [...] One of the country’s best-known gun-rights advocates, Robert Levy, said the NRA’s “stonewalling of the background-check proposal was a mistake, both politically and substantively.”