WASHINGTON -- The Senate did not kill the last standing gun reform bill still under serious discussion on Capitol Hill Thursday, but at best left it on life support.
A bipartisan group of senators worked for a week to come up with an extremely modest gun reform bill that was intended to block gun purchases for anyone on the country's no-fly list or the list of individuals who require special scrutiny to board a plane.
It would have covered just 2,700 Americans and legal residents, and was seen as a compromise to a measure that failed on Monday that would have used the much-larger terrorism watch list to block gun purchases.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) decided that rather than have a normal vote on the measure, he would hold a vote to table it, which would have effectively ended consideration of the bill, authored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).
The measure survived, barely, with 52 senators, including eight Republicans, voting to keep it under consideration, and 46 Republicans voting for tabling it.
Just before the vote, Collins made one last appeal for her bill.
“Surely on an issue of this importance, we should be able to come together and work for common-sense solutions,” Collins said.
Collins got last-minute support from a group of former generals from Republican and Democratic administrations who wrote a letter asking senators to back Collins' bill.
"We are not doing everything we can to prevent future incidences of active shooter terrorism in America," said the generals, including David Petraeus and Michael Hayden.
They argued that the loophole that lets people on the two lists -- who are by definition potential terrorists -- buy weapons poses a grave risk.
"The implications of the 'terror gap' are clear: it allows dangerous people to get their hands on guns," they wrote.
Most of Collins' Republican colleagues disagreed with her and the generals, however, and the situation suggested that if McConnell agrees to bring the measure back up in a more regular fashion, Collins would need to convince at least six more members of her party to back it in order for it to pass.
That prompted Democrats to call the vote a “fake” one.
“We have a bill that would keep guns out of the hands of some suspected terrorists, and Republican leaders cynically choose to give it a path to nowhere,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. “Even the most modest of gun proposals can’t get a real up-or-down vote.”
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) saw a silver lining, saying it was the first time in decades that the Senate voted against the wishes of the National Rifle Association.
"Even though it wasn't a big victory, it was a victory," Reid said, adding that McConnell should just bring the bill back. McConnell did not make that commitment.
"It's really too bad the Republican leader worked so hard to defeat the compromise," Reid said.
This story was updated and rewritten to reflect the vote and debate on the bill.