Dozens of college students murdered in their classrooms; a member of Congress shot at point-blank range; innocents gunned down in a movie theater. Then, in the aftermath of a mass gun crime, the same ritual: national shock and anger, traumatized communities asking how this could happen, followed by . . . nothing. At least, no progress on gun safety.
In a speech to the Urban League on Wednesday, President Obama called for a conversation on youth violence and more steps to keep guns away from criminals and the mentally ill. But everyone, including Obama, has been pretty frank about it: No major new gun laws will result.
However, in Washington, nothing is ever as immovable as it seems.
The key is to understand how intractable problems are ultimately dislodged — not by a single, seismic event, but by a slow shift in politics.
Consider three categories of such issues and the forces that have gotten them unstuck.