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The Spike
by Robert A. Waters | May 11, 2000


They're out there 24 hours a day, dragging their tentacles through the heartland, and into the cities, country villages, and towns of America. They uncover even the thinnest cases of criminal use of firearms—then they blast those stories onto our television screens.

But they didn't find this one.

You'd almost think they're biased.

On November 17, 1999, each of the major networks should have opened their evening newscasts with the following story: "Today, a teenaged boy and a housewife used guns to save their Oregon neighborhood from a crazed killer." Instead, it was a local newspaper that carried the story. Even then, the heroics were only mentioned half-way down the column, and briefly at that.

Had this sixteen-year-old shot up a few students at his high school, the nation would have known about it in minutes. Had Nancy Rabine, a housewife who lived a few doors down from the teenager, gone door-to-door shooting up houses, it would have been headline news.

But since all they did was to save their neighbors from a desperate, murderous thug, the major media washed their hands of the story.

It happened in Lebanon, Oregon.

Marc Mealy Holcomb, Jr. was a career criminal and crack addict. While serving time in the county jail for forgery, he was suddenly sprung when a paperwork snafu caused him to be released prematurely. Not being one to learn from his experiences, Holcomb immediately called a friend and described his plan to rob two brothers who were alleged to keep large amounts of cash in their home. The friend signed on, so late that afternoon, they drove to the home of Dean Frederick Pruitt and John Oliver Pruitt. After forcing his way in the front door, Holcomb shot and killed and Dean, and wounded John. Given Holcomb's luck, there was no money.

Compounding his ill fortune, Holcomb's accomplice, waiting outside, panicked at the sound of the shots and fled. Now the killer was without transportation.

Holcomb, determined to steal a vehicle, made his way on foot to Rock Hill Road. Police later concluded that he had no reason not to kill anyone who got in his way.

Using a semi-automatic pistol, he shot through the door of the first home he came to. As he entered the home, the lone inhabitant fled out the bedroom window carrying his car keys.

The frustrated carjacker went to a second home but found it vacant.

He then made his way to the home of the un-named sixteen-year-old who was babysitting his seven-year-old brother while his parents worked. Again, Holcomb used his gun to announce his arrival, blasting several slugs through the front door.

But this time, when he entered, he was met by the teen who was armed with a .22 rifle. The boy yelled for Holcomb to leave. Instead, the killer charged. The frightened teenager then took aim and drilled Holcomb with a bullet to the chest. The murderer staggered out the door and lurched on to the next house.

Still determined to find a car, Holcomb proceeded to the back door of Nancy Rabine's home. Using his pistol, he smashed out a window near the doorknob and reached through it in an attempt to open the door. Rabine, who had heard the breaking glass, armed herself with a 9mm semi-automatic handgun and confronted the desperate man.

"I told him I had a gun and would use it if he didn't back off," Rabine later told a local reporter. Holcomb then handed her his own weapon before fleeing.

Now disarmed, the fugitive broke into yet another home. Using a kitchen knife, he attacked the occupant, an elderly woman who lived alone. Holcomb forced her to give him the keys to her van. The sobbing, bleeding woman was later taken to the emergency room to be treated for knife wounds.

But at last the neighborhood was quiet. Because of two armed citizens, many lives were undoubtedly saved. Police later arrested Holcomb. He faces life in prison if convicted.

But on November 17, 1999, where was Bernie Shaw? Where was Dan Rather? Where was Peter Jennings? Where was Tom Brokaw?

I'll tell you where they were.

They were still scouring the country for a crime that would make gun-owners look bad. Or for an accidental shooting of a child. Or for a soundbite from some camouflage-clad militia redneck whose very presence on the screen would be certain to frighten the soccer moms into calling for more gun control.

The media know that most Americans believe what they see on television. And conversely, what they don't see never happened.

So CNN, CBS, ABC, and NBC omit stories of armed citizens who save themselves. Or their families. Or a stranger.

Or a neighborhood.

Instead, they wait impatiently for the next school shooting. Or the next fired office worker who goes postal and guns down his co-workers. Or the next child caught in the crossfire of a gang war.

They don't do self-defense with guns.

In Journalsm 101, it's call a "spike."

Mr. Waters is the author of The Best Defense: True Stories of Intended Victims Who Defended Themselves with a Firearm.

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Allowing riflery training while decrying gun violence doesn't send a mixed message any more than does supporting a wrestling team while opposing schoolyard brawls. — CHICAGO TRIBUNE

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