Frustrated White House says future of gun control is now in public’s hands

White House officials frustrated by the Senate’s rejection of gun control legislation said Thursday the fate of the issue is now in the public’s hands.

The comments suggest President Obama is unlikely to press forward on the issue after the stinging defeat of several gun control measures unless there is broad public outrage at the Senate.

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It’s “too early to tell” what the next steps for the White House will be, a senior administration official said.

“It'll sort of depend on how this [issue] plays in the public,” the official continued. “If there's genuine outrage that the Senate did this, it's very possible it that this comes back again.”

The scale of Wednesday’s defeat suggests gun control legislation will not have the votes to make it through the Senate. The Senate rejected expanding background checks, limiting the size of ammunition clips and instituting a new ban on assault weapons — certain semi-automatic weapons with military-style features.

The assault weapons ban won only 40 votes. Every amendment needed 60 votes for passage under a deal worked out by GOP and Democratic leaders that prevented unlimited debate on the measures.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said Thursday that it would be pointless to move forward with the existing legislation because its measures are “virtually meaningless.”

“This bill as written is virtually meaningless and without any significant gun reform,” Murphy told reporters at the Capitol on Thursday. “I think we’re better off to go back to the table and try to work on this issue of background checks.”

White House officials say Obama -- who personally lobbied senators until the final hours before the vote -- did everything he could to push the measure, one that was significantly watered down from the legislation the president originally had on his wish list.

And officials downplayed the notion that the loss could weigh down the rest of Obama's agenda and strip some of the president's political capital, maintaining that Obama has the support of the public behind him.

Instead, officials put the blame squarely on the Senate.

“It's quite clear that [Obama] did everything imaginable to get this done,” the senior administration official said. “At the end of the day, the Senate couldn't get there ... the country has changed but it's clear that the Senate hasn't. I think it's an embarrassment for the Senate.”

Delivering a statement on Wednesday, surrounded by former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) and relatives of the Newtown shooting victims, Obama vowed to keep the fight going, calling Wednesday’s votes “round one.”

“All in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington,” he said. “I believe we’re going to be able to get this done. Sooner or later, we are going to get this right. The memories of these children demand it. And so do the American people.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters he didn't have any updates on how Obama would continue pressing the issue. “But I don't think the president has indicated that he's going to be shy about making his feelings on this issue known.”

The senior administration official said that the White House strategy in the weeks ahead will have to be informed by what Congress does next.

“We can’t develop our strategy in a vacuum,” the official said.