- A teen wielding a gun . . .
- The phrase takes the breath away these days -- and sets
many knees to jerking and tongues to wagging for ever more gun-control
- But an Oregon teen wielding a gun in Lebanon last week
presents a far truer -- and more positive -- picture of gun use in America
than all the Littletons and other tales of gun violence. So, for that matter,
does what happened when a neighbor of the Lebanon teen-age boy picked up
- The teen-age boy and, later, the woman were defending
themselves against an attacker who had already allegedly shot two people,
one dead. But don't expect either armed hero to become a media celebrity,
or armed self-defense to become our smart set's cause celebre. Using guns
in legal self-defense just isn't part of the media super-story, especially
when teen-agers are involved.
- But facts are inconvenient things, and here's what happened
in Lebanon as alleged by police: Early Wednesday evening, Marc A. Holcomb
Jr., a 28-year-old man with a criminal record mistakenly freed from the
Lane County Jail, shot two brothers after an argument at a Sweet Home residence.
He fled. He was trying to force his way into homes and trying to steal
a vehicle in Lebanon. At one home he fired two rounds from his semiautomatic
into the front door. At another, he confronted a 16-year-old boy who was
home with his 7-year-old brother. The teen-ager grabbed a .22-caliber rifle
and shot Holcomb in the chest and . . . .
- According to criminologists Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz,
law-abiding citizens use guns to defend themselves against criminals about
2.5 million times every year. This far surpasses the number of times guns
are used to take a life. They found that, in 83.5 percent of successful
gun defenses, the attacker either threatened or used force first. Three-quarters
of the time the attacker did not know the intended victim.
- The Lebanon teen was unusual in this respect. The vast
majority of folks who use their guns to defend themselves don't even fire
their guns, much less fire at their attackers. They simply brandish the
guns or fire off warning shots to scare off their attackers. Less than
8 percent of the time does a citizen wound or kill his or her attacker.
- Brandishing is what happened a few houses later last
week in Lebanon. Here's how correspondent Matt Sabo detailed it in The
- "After getting shot, Holcomb allegedly ran to Nancy
Rabine's home and pounded on her front door. Rabine refused to let him
in and grabbed a 9 mm handgun. He went to another door at the house and
smashed out a small window near the doorknob and reached inside for the
handle, she said.
- " 'I told him I had a gun and told him I would use
it if he didn't back off,' she said.
- "Rabine said that she beat on the man's hand with
the butt of her gun and that he eventually handed her his handgun, which
was empty of bullets. When she turned to call 9-1-1, he ran away, she said."
- Women, it turns out, have a special stake in gun-aided
self-defense. Kleck and Gertz found that the 2.5 million self-defense cases
included more than 200,000 women who were defending themselves against
- Economist John Lott of the University of Chicago School
of Law has concluded from his studies that more gun ownership means less
crime. He figures there would have been up to 1,800 fewer murders, 4,800
fewer rapes, and 94,000 fewer aggravated assaults in 1992 if more concealed
weapons permits had been granted.
- But might that mean more accidental deaths for adults
and kids? Well, there were 1,400 accidental gun deaths in 1996, and 200
of those involved kids under the age of 15. Compare that to 950 child drownings
or 2,900 children killed in car accidents.
- What might have happened to the 16-year-old and his brother
in Lebanon if he hadn't been armed? Or the gun-toting neighbor lady?
- Some gun-control measures make sense. But we also ought
to talk sense about the value of guns. As the Alan Ladd character said
in the film "Shane" years back, "A gun is a tool, Marion,
no better or no worse than any other tool . . . . A gun is as good or as
bad as the man using it. Remember that."
- The guess here is that many in Lebanon are remembering