Behind the scenes, the kind of negotiations that lead to big deals that can get through Congress, like the wheeling and dealing that made Biden a kingmaker on the fiscal cliff, haven’t even begun on gun control.

Just getting the parties to the table was a challenge. The NRA was not invited to a meeting with Biden until Friday, after the vice president already began meeting with other groups. Wal-Mart originally said it couldn’t make it.

And Biden’s meeting with the NRA might get awkward since Richard Feldman, a former gun lobbyist who wrote an NRA tell-all, will also be there.

All of this has left even staunch supporters of gun reform laws pessimistic that a big deal will head through Congress, even after the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., last month that left 20 children dead.

“I hope a tragedy like this one will get more and more people who’ve kowtowed to the gun lobby to rethink that, but it’s hard to be very optimistic,” said former Rep. Mike Barnes (D-Md.), who duked it out with the NRA as head of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in the early 2000s. “It’s very hard to see anything meaningful passing in this House of Representatives.”