They may well have been decisive, Carney said. The president has said all along, and you heard him in Hartford on Monday, that Congress will do the right thing if the American people speak up."
But though the Thursday vote was an important symbolic victory, illustrating that a broad coalition of lawmakers were at least willing to debate the bill, theres little agreement on much else.
The NRA, as well as major conservative groups, are watching closely and vowing to remind their members how lawmakers voted.
However, several groups pushing for tighter gun laws are fighting back. They have major backing from billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who might serve as a counterweight to two decades of NRA influence on gun issues.
The ground is shifting politically as we speak, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., called the vote a breakthrough.
The next hurdle will be trying to get agreement on what amendments will be taken up. Gun rights advocates are preparing their own proposals, believed to involve more funding for mental health, among other proposals.
Gun control backers know such proposals might gain considerable support, and by voting for them, on-the-fence senators could claim they voted for gun safety and not take the tougher votes. But without allowing such plans to come to a vote, supporters risk procedural tie-ups.
The supporters best hope is that the mood that prevailed this week continues: that for or against gun control, at least there should be a debate.
I hope we dont have to go through this procedural mishmash, said Senate Majority Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Lesley Clark of the Washington Bureau contributed.