John Straley, in his former office as a criminal defense investigator in the Alaska Public Defender’s office in Sitka.  (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

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My name is John Straley of Sitka, Alaska. I’d like our congressional delegation and our congress to allow the Center for Disease Control to study gun violence.

For 35 years, I was a criminal defense investigator. Here’s one case I worked on.

A man and a woman lived in a remote logging camp. For his birthday, the man purchased two cases of beer, a fifth of Everclear, and a gallon of whiskey — for three people. By six in the evening, they were drunk and all three were fighting. A friend of the man walks by and remembers he had borrowed his hunting rifle. He goes back, returns the gun. Late the night, the third man at the party goes home to the bunkhouse. Early in the morning, a shot is fired and the woman is dead on the floor. The man is barely conscious with the rifle in his hands. The birthday man is sentenced to 50 years in prison.

I’m sad to say this is a common Alaskan homicide. Turns out to be complicated and we need to ask some hard questions.

Why do men resort to violence more than women? Do guns make us more safe, always? The stories we read, the images we see, the games we play — do they make us more or less prone to violence? How does alcohol or any of the different drugs we make affect our capability for violence? Do we really need to ban all weapons? No weapons? Some weapons? Or some weapons for some people?

I don’t know. That’s why I think we need to study it. But I do know guns kill people. In the hands of drunken, impulsive, angry people, guns kill human beings. We know this. We need to do more to find all the ways to keep guns out of the hands of some people at the wrong times.

The thing is I like owning sporting weapons as much as any Alaskan. But why not get more information? Why can’t the the NRA support more mental health care for more people? And support domestic violence shelters and alcohol treatment centers as part of the fight against gun violence?

The NRA opposed the CDC studying gun violence in 1996. They got Congressman James Dickey from Arkansas to support it. Now, even Dickey himself supports the CDC studying gun violence, but the NRA will not allow Congress to repeal it.

We should at least be able to ask the scientists for possible solutions to the problems. Maybe we don’t have to live with total bans or growing numbers of murder sprees.

The old choices don’t work. I think we should turn things around on guns. Ask our delegation to dump the Dickey Amendment.