Washington (CNN) – After Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he was pulling the gun legislation bill, the odds that any new restrictions on guns would move in the Republican-led House shifted from slim to virtually none.
"Right now it doesn't look good," New York Republican Rep. Peter King told CNN, summing up the chances that his bill - identical to the bipartisan compromise developed in the Senate expanding background checks for many gun sales - could pass in the House.
After the Senate bill - pushed by pro-gun rights Sens. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania - along with measures banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines all failed to pass on Wednesday, Reid said he’s taking a pause and shelving gun legislation for the time being.
Asked what action - if any - he planned to take, House Speaker John Boehner wouldn't commit to a House vote anytime soon. Instead he told reporters at his weekly news conference that House committees were reviewing issues surrounding mental health and ways to protect Americans, but that "No decision has been made beyond that."
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi pledged she would continue fighting for the issue, but she already began refocusing her attention to advocates outside Congress, urging them to force GOP leaders to put the issue back on the agenda.
"The American people can say to the leadership in the Congress, to the Speaker of the House, ‘Give us a vote. Give us a vote in the House.’ And so as you can see, we're just not taking ‘no’ for an answer," Pelosi said.
Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, who was a co-sponsor of the background check with King, told CNN he still believed the legislation was "a good bill that enhances the system," and said he planned to appeal to House GOP leaders to hold a hearing and ultimately a vote on it.
Most House Republicans stress that right now they want the Obama administration to step up its efforts to enforce existing gun laws.
As Boehner did, House GOP aides point to the work that committees are doing and say it's possible that at some point later this year the House could take up very narrow gun legislation aimed at cracking down on "straw purchasing" - the practice of someone buying a gun illegally for someone else - and combating illegal gun trafficking. There is also bipartisan agreement that Congress needs to do more to address the mentally ill’s access to guns so there could be some movement in that area.
But after the background check bill failed in the Senate, few believe there's a shred of hope the House would take up the more controversial measures. Gun control advocates are banking on greater public pressure on Congress to force action and they pledge to make the issue a high-profile one in the midterm elections in 2014.
Rep. Mike Thompson of California, who is the lead House Democrat pushing the background check bill with King, admitted that even with public opinion polls showing overwhelming support for his legislation, members of Congress aren't feeling any heat to back it now. He told reporters that after lobbying a GOP colleague from California to support his bill, the member, whom he didn't name, admitted he believed most of his constituents supported it, but not one had called his office and urged him to act.
"I think what happened last night in the Senate is going to be a strong message to the voters across this country that it's time to get involved and it's time to pick up the phone and call their members," Thompson said.
Pelosi also maintained the failed vote in the Senate will show a clear contrast, and she alluded to an argument gun control advocates will make to voters in the next election.
"So it's disappointing, but, again, it's going to energize the effort so that more attention - even more attention - is paid on what the choices are here in Congress and who are on the side of the safety of our children in their homes and their schools and their neighborhoods and their communities," Pelosi said.
Boehner sidestepped answering a question about whether there will be any political blowback in 2014 for House Republicans if the GOP-led House doesn’t act on the gun control this year, merely repeating that the issue was under review.
"Our committees are going to continue to look at the violence in our society and look at these tragedies and determine whether there are common-sense steps that we can take to reduce the chances of this," Boehner said.
Fitzpatrick, who represents a district outside Philadelphia that is regularly targeted by Democrats, says even if the House ultimately doesn’t vote on the background check bill, he won't be blamed by voters because he's talking about his work on it when he's back home.
"My constituents pay attention. They do their homework,” he told CNN. “They're familiar with my sponsorship of this measure, along with Senator Toomey's."