He talked about passing significant gun control laws in Maryland "by leading with principle, not by pandering to the NRA and backing down to the NRA," and bragged about his "F" grade from the organization. He also listed the NRA as the enemy he is most proud to have made while in office.
The feeling appears to be mutual. The group's magazine featured O'Malley on its September 2015 cover with a headline declaring him a "menace." And the NRA tweeted Tuesday night that it was "happy" to give O'Malley a failing grade: "You earned it."
But records filed with the Internal Revenue Service show that the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, the group's lobbying arm, gave the Democratic Governors Association $40,000 in contributions in 2012 while O'Malley served as the association's chairman.
The Intercept first reported the funding on Tuesday. The Democratic Governors Association is an independent organization that raises money and support to elect Democrats. O'Malley served as chairman in 2011 and 2012.
O'Malley's campaign didn't deny that the association accepted funds from the NRA's lobbying arm. But Haley Morris, O'Malley's national press secretary, said via email that "there is only one presidential candidate whom the NRA fears and that's Governor O'Malley."
Morris highlighted O'Malley's support for an assault weapons ban, and said the reforms he signed into law as governor were "the most comprehensive tough gun safety reforms in the country."
The NRA group donated to the governors association before O'Malley served as chair, which Morris said suggests the support had nothing to do with O'Malley's role in the organization. She noted that the group each year donates a significantly larger amount to the Republican Governors Association.
"Governor O'Malley has never solicited money from the NRA nor would they ever support him since they consider him 'the number one menace' to their cause," said Morris.
The NRA's Institute for Legislative Action did not immediately respond to a request for comment.