When the vote came down—54-46, not enough to replace the gun bill with the Manchin-Toomey compromise—an impromptu family of gun control activists was watching from the gallery. The activists looked glum but not surprised; they'd gone into the room aware that the votes weren't there. But before she left, a survivor of the 2011 Tucson killing spree named Patricia Maisch stood up and broke the rules of the Senate.
"Shame on you!" yelled Maisch.
Typically, when someone yells from the gallery, security hustles to bounce the heckler out of the room. Maisch wasn't elbowed out very quickly. Two years ago, she was one of the people who effectively shut down Jared Loughner's rampage. She saw him coming, she lay on the ground, and when Loughner fumbled his reload and was tackled, Maisch snatched away his extra magazine. And no one really ushered her out of the Hill today as she told reporters why she yelled.
"I could not stay still," she said, standing in a scrum of reporters. "They should be ashamed of themselves ... if it had been a yes vote, I wouldn't have said anything. It was spontaneous—but I was prepared to do that."
She gave her info and story a few times before one of the other activists started to usher her out. One reporter asked her what she thought of Sen. Jeff Flake's no vote on the amendment. "Sen. Flake?" she said. "I'm embarrassed. He's a flaky flake."
Maisch kept walking out. Erica Lafferty, whose mother was the principal of Sandy Hook, stood comforting a family member of another victim and told reporters she was optimistic. About getting a bill next time. Not about today.
"I've been roaming the halls of the Senate all week," she said. Senators who told her they'd vote no "would say, 'It wouldn't have stopped 'Sandy Hook.' I'm more aware than anyone in this entire world that background checks won't bring my mom back. But background checks might make sure that another 27-year-old doesn't have to get married" without her mother.