Thousands March Against Gun Violence In Washington (Photos)
Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray helped lead the March on Washington for Gun Control on the National Mall. Reuters

Senate Democrats on Thursday got the 60 votes they needed to defeat a GOP filibuster and move their gun control bill to debate. In a 68-to-31 vote, 16 Senate Republicans sided with Democrats for cloture, while two Democrats -- Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas -- sided with the Republicans.

"This legislation and this vote is important for our country, especially for the people from Connecticut who lived through this tragedy," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., referring to the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., last December.

The vote came after Pat Toomey, a pro-gun Republican senator with an “A”-rating from the National Rifle Association, unveiled a bipartisan background-check compromise with Sen. Joe Manchin, a pro-gun Democrat with a similar NRA rating. Prior to the deal, it appeared the bill would never make it to the Senate floor, especially after 13 Republican senators threatened to block it.

The two senators said they were in communication with all sides of the gun control debate before passing their legislation. However, the NRA criticized the agreement Wednesday just after it was announced, stating that background checks wouldn’t have prevented tragedies like Newtown.

“We need a serious and meaningful solution that addresses crime in cities like Chicago, addresses mental health deficiencies, while at the same time protecting the rights of those of us who are not a danger to anyone,” the gun lobby’s statement read. “President Obama should be as committed to dealing with the gang problem that is tormenting honest people in his hometown as he is to blaming law-abiding gun owners for the acts of psychopathic murderers.”