Gun-Control Advocate, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, to Speak to NRA

By John Rossomando | July 7, 2008 | 8:28 PM EDT

( - Despite her support for legislation requiring gun locks and background checks at gun shows, U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) has accepted an invitation to speak Wednesday night to the Orange County Member's Council of the National Rifle Association.

Carrie Brooks, Sanchez' press secretary, said the congresswoman views the visit as an attempt to reach out to the NRA members as a part of her constituency. However, other Democrats, either already in office or running for office, have toned down their anti-gun rhetoric recently after polls showed the issue hurt Democrats in the 2000 elections.

"She is addressing them as she addresses many other organizations," Brooks said. "Congresswoman Sanchez tends to reach out to those people who aren't part of her usual constituency. It's important to her to keep that communication open.

"I don't think that she is taking a stand for the entire Democratic Party. I think she is taking a stand [as] a congresswoman who represents people who are in the NRA. Obviously, they are not the majority of her constituency, but they are part of her constituency," Brooks said.

Brooks said Sanchez is open to finding common ground with the NRA on gun safety issues despite her own belief in gun control.

"You're not going to find a situation where everyone agrees on everything, [but] I wouldn't say that she is anti-gun," Brooks said. "I think that she holds reasonable views that there should be waiting periods, and that there should be locks on guns.

"She (Sanchez) thinks that guns should be handled safely, and I don't think that most reasonable people would think that there is something wrong with that," she said.

The Bellevue, Wash.-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms has no problem with Sanchez speaking to the Orange County NRA Members' Council, but does believe Sanchez has ulterior motives.

"It is a perfectly legitimate and overt event, [but] my concerns would be two-fold," said Joe Waldron, executive director of the CCRKBA. "One is the fact she has never shown [any support for] firearm owners' rights in the past, and the other concern [that] is interesting [is her role] as part of the so-called Blue Dog Democratic coalition."

Waldron argues that Sanchez, like other members of the Blue Dog coalition, are trying to repair the political damage from the last election while also supporting any and all gun control bills that come to the floor of the U.S. House.

"What we have here basically is the Democrats certainly evaluating the outcome of the last presidential election, certainly recognizing that Al Gore lost the election in West Virginia, in Tennessee, and Arkansas," Waldron said. "He (Gore) lost on the gun issue in all three of those states. Had he taken those states, he'd be president today.

"It doesn't surprise me that Congresswoman Sanchez would want to make overtures to an NRA group, at least to give the appearances of making overtures to an NRA group," he said. "Let's take a look at the voting record down the road."

Waldron added that he is skeptical "that Congresswoman Sanchez will have her mind changed or her positions altered as a result of any of those discussions," with NRA members.

The Orange County NRA Member's Council and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Handgun Violence were contacted for reaction, but calls were not returned.