In conjunction with activists across the country on the National Day of Action to Reduce Gun Violence, proponents of universal background checks for gun buyers Thursday launched a local effort to pass the legislation.

Elected and religious leaders, as well as victims of the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting, held a news conference at the South Tucson City Hall demanding that Congress pass "sensible and common-sense" laws to limit access of guns to criminals and the mentally ill.

South Tucson Mayor Jennifer Eckstrom, who is part of the national group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said guns are too easily obtained through private sellers. Background checks would provide a systematic way of reducing gun violence, she said.

Pat Maisch, a victim of the Jan. 8, 2011, Tucson shooting that killed six people and wounded then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others, also called on Congress to restrict the sale of high-capacity magazines.

And Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of the Tucson Diocese said legislators need to muster the courage to take simple, common-sense steps to reduce gun-related deaths.