Over a barrel? Meet White House gun policy adviser Steve Croley
On March 15, two months after a deadly shooting spree in Tucson left a U.S. congresswoman in critical condition, the nation’s leading gun-control activists took seats in Room 4525 at the Department of Justice to push the Obama administration for more firearm regulation. In the hour-and-a-half-long meeting, Assistant Attorney General Christopher H. Schroeder, who has coordinated the government’s work on the issue, went around a long conference table soliciting views from representatives of the major advocacy and law enforcement groups.
But the official the advocates wanted to hear from most stayed mostly quiet.
The silence of Steve Croley, the White House’s point man on gun regulation policy, echoes the decision by Democrats to remain mute on guns as a national issue, even in the wake of the Tucson rampage. Croley’s keep-your-head-down approach is in keeping with President Obama’s preference for low-key wonks, but in this case, his reticence has more to do with political reality: Democrats have no plans for serious gun-control initiatives, and the Gabrielle Giffords tragedy, as heart-rending as it was, hasn’t changed their minds.
The result for Croley is a tree-falls-in-the-woods conundrum: If President Obama, like just about every leading Democrat, has abandoned the issue, does the administration’s gun policy even exist? Croley is undeniably present, but he doesn’t make a sound.
The buzz-cut gun owner with sharp cheekbones and a genius for regulatory law is, according to multiple advocates, on a “listening tour.” Activists with whom Croley has conferred described him as enigmatic, though their conversations have yielded certain strong impressions. Croley, who since August has been Obama’s assistant for justice and regulatory policy, favors closing a loophole in the law that allows unlicensed gun dealers to sell arms without background checks, especially at gun shows. His background in administrative law has especially prepared him for figuring out how state agencies can make their records readily available to a federal gun database. . .
More relevant to his current brief, Croley’s theoretical perspective of law has steadily shifted to the “the nuts and bolts of how things work,” according to his friend and University of Michigan colleague Kyle D. Logue. Croley has moonlighted as a special assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan and is now widely cited on regulation and tort law. That reputation for pragmatism hit a snag in 2002 when his fingers were mangled in a snowblower accident. He had disregarded the warning label, and he became an on-campus case study: If one of the country’s leading tort scholars fails to heed an advisory label, professors posited, do such warnings carry any weight?
It’s just that sort of question about the role of regulation on dangerous products that has informed Croley’s approach to the gun issue.
“If you think of guns as the intersection of regulatory policy and torts, then nothing makes more sense than a professor specializing in regulation policy and torts” to work on gun policy, said Roderick Hills, a law professor at New York University and an old friend of Croley’s. He suggested that if the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Second Amendment shaped a keyhole for regulation, Croley’s job is to make a skeleton key that fits that keyhole. “He’s the right guy,” Hills said.
Christopher H. Schroeder
More on Christopher H. Schroeder, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy. And even more here. Wikipedia reports:
In his new post, Schroeder will serve as chief policy adviser to Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden.
Of David Ogden, Wikipedia says:
On January 5, 2009, President-elect Barack Obama announced he would nominate Ogden to be Deputy Attorney General. Ogden's nomination was criticized by conservative groups that objected to some of his previous legal work, such as his representation of adult entertainment companies including Playboy and Penthouse. But it was also praised and supported by important groups and figures in both parties, including the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National Sheriff's Association, the National District Attorneys Association, Larry Thompson, Jamie S. Gorelick, Seth Waxman, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Ogden was confirmed by the United States Senate on March 12, 2009, in a vote of 65-28. On December 3, 2009 it was announced that he would be resigning his post and returning to private practice in February 2010.
According to news accounts, Ogden stepped down in part because of disagreements with Attorney General Eric Holder over management issues.
The first speech he gave after his resignation was on the subject of "Restoring the Department of Justice."