WASHINGTON (Reuters) - State lawmakers have launched a nationwide non-partisan coalition to combat gun violence, in part because the Congress has failed to reform gun laws, members of the group said on Monday.
Some 200 lawmakers from 50 states have joined the alliance, American State Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention, said the group’s founder, Democratic New York State Assembly member Brian Kavanagh.
Kavanagh told a news conference the group would focus on state-level gun control reforms, including the prevention of interstate gun trafficking and tightening background checks on buyers.
Congress has “failed in its responsibility” to prevent gun violence, said Jose Rodriguez, a Democratic state senator from Texas.
“We can’t continue in the same path that we’ve been in as a country,” he said.
President Barack Obama had vowed to curb gun violence after a 20-year-old shooter killed 26 people, mostly children, at a Connecticut school in 2012. But the Senate rejected his proposal for wider background checks for gun buyers.
Lawmakers from eight states were at the news conference, including Virginia, Alabama, New Hampshire and Kansas. The only Republican lawmaker was state Representative Barbara Bollier from Kansas.
“We are a diverse group from red and blue states, and I am convinced our collective action will have an impact,” said state Representative Stacey Newman, a Democrat from Missouri.
The group has not released information on its preliminary donors, but Kavanagh said fundraising efforts were under way. Members are scheduled to hold their first meeting on Tuesday.
The Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence said last year that states had led the way in passing gun-control laws. Eight states, headed by California, enacted major gun reforms since the Connecticut killings, it said.
Voters in Washington state last month also approved legislation to expand background checks for gun buyers.
The National Institute for Money in State Politics, in Helena, Montana, said last year that fewer than 10 percent of gun control measures introduced in state legislatures after mass shootings in 2012 became law.
Opponents of gun control outspent gun control advocates in the 2011-12 election cycle by about $800,000 to $21,000, institute figures show. More than half the anti-gun-control contributions were from the National Rifle Association, the powerful gun rights lobby.
Editing by Ian Simpson and Dan Grebler