HARRISBURG - A bill to limit the number of handguns a person could buy to one a month has met its fate - defeat.

Another measure that would have allowed municipalities such as Philadelphia to make their own gun laws - vanquished.

And the push to curb illegal gun trafficking? As of Tuesday evening, shot down.

It was the latest loss in the last six months for Pennsylvania's gun-control movement, but nevertheless its advocates insisted yesterday they had only just begun their fight.

"We have started to draw the gun-safety issue out of the shadows - which is where the special-interests lobby of the NRA wanted it to stay - and we are not going to stop now," Joe Grace, executive director of CeaseFire PA, said yesterday. "We have a coalition that is growing, that is very energized."

Grace said Tuesday's House vote on an amendment that would have made it mandatory to report lost and stolen handguns provided what had been lacking for a decade - a vote, for the record, on a substantive gun-control measure - even if it was defeated, 128-75.

The National Rifle Association, which has 250,000 members in the state, fought the bill up to the moment of the vote. The association and other gun-rights proponents contended it could penalize law-abiding citizens, and insisted that existing laws need only be enforced.

"Sure, in the big scheme, the goal is to get something passed into law," said Rep. Cherelle Parker (D., Philadelphia), a vocal proponent of the lost-and-stolen measure.

"But we now have a recorded vote that we can look at, see who didn't vote with us, and figure out whether we can bring them around to our way of thinking," she said.

Still, high-profile gun-control initiatives have suffered in the legislature, despite impassioned pleas by many urban lawmakers trying to stem illegal guns and gun violence in their communities.

In November, the House Judiciary Committee handily defeated two key bills aimed at cracking down on gun crime - this after Gov. Rendell took the unusual step of appearing before the committee to lobby for their passage.

One was the bill to limit handgun purchases to one per month. The other would have empowered local governments to enact gun-control laws.

At the time, the committee tabled a bill establishing reporting requirements for lost and stolen handguns. That bill is different from the amendment that was defeated earlier this week in the House, and could still come up for a vote.

The will is there to do so, several lawmakers said yesterday.

Rep. David Levdansky (D., Allegheny), the author of the defeated amendment, said that although the issue might not be acted on again this year, it would continue to be the focus of the push for "sensible" gun-control legislation.

The amendment would have required owners to report a handgun missing within three days of discovering it was gone. Failing to do so could have resulted in a summary charge for the first offense, rising to a felony for the third offense.

Levdansky and others suggested that, going forward, gun-control advocates needed to take a page out the NRA's playbook: amass an army of volunteers and supporters across the state - not just law enforcement and political figures, but also doctors, teachers and children's advocates - to work phones and get the group's message out through direct mail.

But John Hohenwarter, the NRA's chief lobbyist in Pennsylvania, countered yesterday that "their problem isn't organization. It's their message. They don't have a message that anyone is willing to buy here in Pennsylvania."

Grace, of CeaseFire PA, disputed that, citing polls showing that the majority of residents support some form of gun control.

And, he said, his organization is rapidly expanding.

"Our goal is to build a coalition that is even broader and deeper," he said, "so that it becomes a force to be reckoned with."

Contact staff writer Angela Couloumbis at 717-787-5934 or acouloumbis@phillynews.com.