The second, larger task, as administration officials describe it, is broader and more fuzzy. It requires changing the culture of guns in America and shifting the conversation from one of protecting gun rights enshrined in the Constitution to one of protecting children.

It is this second task for which the president is qualified above all others. Every day we see examples of how difficult it is to get anything done in Washington. But when Vice President Biden talks about this kind of cultural change, he talks about seatbelts as much as the 1994 assault weapons ban he helped author. Changing public attitudes about seat belts took more than legislation to make it the norm.

Listening to those involved in this effort there are echoes of the 2008 Obama campaign—they describe an energy and swell of sentiment that just needs a person to shape and guide it. Activists who have been fighting for gun control for years describe a new unexpected passion among progressive groups. After meeting with the vice president and his staffers, they express surprise (and delight) at how seriously the president and his team are pushing this effort.

The reason the president is qualified for this larger task is that it doesn’t require Congress. He can give speeches, use the bully pulpit, fire up his campaign organization, and generally engage all of his best tools.