When Joe Biden meets with the National Rifle Association later today, he will not be amongst friends.
Biden’s relationship over the years with the NRA has been marked by antagonism — particularly given Biden’s central role in passing the 1994 crime bill that codified the first federal assault weapons ban. Biden has also routinely earned an ‘F’ rating from the group.
In the midst of the antagonism have been a few instances when the two have worked together — or at least tried to — and some attempts by Biden to connect with gun owners.
Here’s a look at the interactions between the two over the years:
* The NRA fought tooth and nail against passage of the 1994 crime bill, which Biden authored, because of its ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.
Biden had been working on the bill for six years when it stalled in the House, and he repeatedly blamed the NRA during that period for holding it up.
“I have underestimated every year the power of the NRA. I must acknowledge that,” Biden told NPR in 1994. “For six years, the NRA, in conjunction with our Republican colleagues and a few of our Democratic friends, have blocked the passage of tough crime legislation.”
* Four years earlier, in the early stages of the same debate, the NRA accused Biden of trying pass an “underhanded gun ban.”
“Sen. Biden is camouflaging (Michael) Dukakis’ gun ban ideas under the rhetoric of President Bush’s popular crime-fighting ideas, so he can push through a federal gun ban before you and I can stop him,” an NRA letter said, according to the Portland Oregonian.
* The NRA also ran ads at the time featuring NRA activist and actor Charlton Heston saying the crime bill, which aimed to put 100,000 more police officers on the streets, would cost $70,000 per officer and thus fall short of the 100,000 goal.
Biden took issue with the figure and attacked Heston, according to the Los Angeles Times: ”I do not know how many of you hire your cops back home for $70,000 a year. I guess he is just used to being in Hollywood, where they pay a lot of money for those things.”
* Eventually, Biden did play some ball with the NRA, offering an amendment to the crime bill that would exempt current owners of high-capacity clips from prosecution after the ban was enacted.
The amendment was drafted by Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), a pro-gun Democrat who subsequently resigned from the NRA’s board, and the bill passed in the House — which had been the major stumbling block in the process.
* Biden wasn’t done hitting the NRA, though. The following year, when the NRA defended gun rights by referring to people’s need to protect themselves against “jack-booted government thugs,” Biden responded by saying the NRA’s rhetoric probably cost it two members for every member it gained.
* In 1996, Biden criticized the NRA and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for their objections to an anti-terrorism bill that included expanded wiretaps and FBI access to financial records.
“They’re a minority, no matter how you add it up,” he said of the NRA and the ACLU, according to the Chicago Tribune.
He offered similar thoughts during a 1996 appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” going after another gun group, the Gun Owners of America, for opposing wiretaps.
“The reason is because of the militia groups. The reason is because of the Gun Owners of America. The reason is because of this mentality out there, the small group of people in America who think that the government is the enemy, it is the sworn enemy,” Biden said.
* Some harsh words were also exchanged during the crafting of another crime bill in 1984.
Biden brought the NRA to the table when he headed up an effort to ban armor-piercing, so-called “cop-killer” bullets. He later accused the group of crafting the proposal and then lobbying senators to vote against it.
”We feel double-crossed,” Biden said, according to UPI. “It appears as though we’ve been stuck.”
* More recently, Biden offended gun rights activists at a 2007 Democratic presidential debate. In response a questioner who had submitted a YouTube video of himself holding an assault rifle, Biden suggested the man might have mental problems.
“I’ll tell you what, if that is his baby, he needs help,” Biden said. “I don’t know that he is mentally qualified to own that gun.”
* Given that comment, some were surprised that Obama selected Biden, given the now-president’s own unhelpful comments on gun rights (see “cling to guns and religion“).
But during the general election campaign, Biden sought to play up his blue collar roots and the fact that he owned guns.
“I guarantee you Barack Obama ain’t taking my shotguns, so don’t buy that malarkey,” Biden said in rural Virginia, according to ABC News. “Don’t buy that malarkey. They’re going to start peddling that to you.”
“I got two,” Biden said. “If he tries to fool with my Beretta, he’s got a problem. I like that little over and under, you know? I’m not bad with it. So give me a break. Give me a break.”
* Later in the campaign, the NRA ran a tough ad in Pennsylvania, the state when Biden was born, criticizing his record on guns.
“Joe Biden wants you to believe he shares your values because he was born in Scranton,” the ad says. “But Pennsylvania gun owners and hunters don’t share his values.”
* In 1993, during Attorney General Janet Reno’s confirmation hearings, then-Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Biden revealed that an NRA lobbyist had spread an unsubstantiated rumor that Reno had been stopped for drunken driving. The lobbyist resigned and apologized to Reno and Biden.