By now, most
Americans are familiar with the horrific murder of a Pensacola,
Florida, couple by the name of Byrd and Melanie Billings. They were
the parents of 17 children, 13 of whom were adopted – most of whom
had disabilities. This case hits home with me, because they lived
in my hometown of Pensacola. I did not know them personally, but
they were fairly well known around town. Byrd was a well-to-do businessman
who owned a used car business and financial loan service.
Byrd and Melanie
were shot to death in their own home a week ago Thursday. So far,
eight people have been arrested in the case: seven men and one woman.
The seven men are each charged with two open counts of murder, and
the woman is charged with accessory to murder after the fact. Law
enforcement officials said yesterday that at least one more "person
of interest" is being sought.
murder case was broken open by the fact that their home was equipped
with a surveillance system, which recorded the vehicle used to transport
the murderers to the home and probably much of the criminal activity
inside the house, although the sheriff’s office has not released
the video of what was recorded inside the house. The video of the
van led police to the suspects. Our State Attorney, Bill Eddins,
says that all of the perpetrators who actively took part in the
shootings are in custody. At least five of the men were inside the
house when the murders took place; and police said the killers were
in and out of the house in four minutes.
In a news conference
yesterday, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan and State Attorney
Bill Eddins said they have the murder "weapon or weapons."
They also said that the remaining "person of interest"
was supposed to disable the surveillance system but did not do so,
which is why the system was still operational when the crimes occurred.
In addition, Morgan and Eddins said the motive was robbery, because
a small safe was taken from the house, but that other motives could
also apply to the killings. Federal agencies are also assisting
with the Billings murders, including the FBI, BATFE, and DEA.
To my way of
thinking, this case smacks of much more than a robbery gone badly.
There were at least eight, and maybe nine, people involved. Maybe
more. The invasion and killings were perpetrated in less than four
minutes, by multiple assailants, and with "military precision."
The home invasion took place at approximately 7:30 p.m. local time.
And at the time of the shooting, nine of the Billings children were
in the home.
I believe murder,
not robbery, was the motive. Extraordinary planning and the number
of personnel involved indicate to me that the Billings were executed,
and that robbery was an afterthought – or was even intended to be
a ruse to mislead law enforcement. The real reason behind the killings
may never be known, of course.
of the "why" and "how" of the killings, one
thing is painfully obvious: a violent attack took place against
a man and his wife inside their own home. And while the circumstances
of the Billings case may be sensational, the simple fact that a
couple was murdered inside their own home has become rather commonplace
throughout the United States. Nationwide, home invasions are skyrocketing.
Home is the
one place where most of us feel safe and protected. Even those who
have a keen sense of self-defense feel free to let their guard down
at home. And, sadly, most people do not possess a keen sense of
self-defense. Most people have the deluded opinion that law enforcement
will protect them. But even law enforcement professionals will tell
you it is not their job to protect citizens; it is their job to
apprehend and bring those who have committed crimes to justice.
In other words, after you are dead, the cops will try to catch the
guys who killed you.
It is time
that people wake up to the fact that the responsibility of self-defense
rests with each individual citizen. We are all vulnerable to attack – even
in our homes! For this reason, our federal Constitution and most
(if not all) State constitutions recognize the Natural Law right
of people to keep and bear arms.
Over the past
40-plus years, however, miscreants in Washington, D.C., and in our
State capitols have been whittling away at the right of the people
to keep and bear arms. Lawful gun dealers are being harangued and
harassed out of existence by the BATFE. Law enforcement agencies
and State prosecutors often side with criminals when they are shot
in self-defense by intended victims (especially in the Northeast).
The media often characterizes lawful gun owners as "gun nuts"
or "militia members" to try to create the impression that
they are "dangerous" or "extremist." Public
education – especially higher education – is often a willing participant
in helping to demonize gun owners. Even Hollywood often uses its
influence to sway public opinion against gun owners. All this, coupled
with a natural lazy tendency of urban living, equates to a careless
and defenseless society: something both would-be tyrants in government
and street criminals love.
America’s founders were wiser than most of today’s generation. They
understood the relationship between the citizen’s right (and determination)
to keep and bear arms and his or her safety and security.
Thomas Jefferson said, "No free man shall ever be debarred
the use of arms." He also said, "Laws that forbid the
carrying of arms . . . disarm only those who are neither inclined
nor determined to commit crimes . . . Such laws make things worse
for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather
to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be
attacked with greater confidence than an armed man."
Paine said, "[A]rms, like laws, discourage and keep the invader
and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as
property . . . Horrid mischief would ensue were one-half the world
deprived of the use of them; for while avarice and ambition have
a place in the heart of man, the weak will become prey to the strong.
The history of every age and nation establishes these truths, and
facts need but little arguments when they prove themselves."
double murder is the latest example of just how vulnerable we all
are to the violent tendencies of evil people. For this reason (and
more), every American should (1) resist any and all attempts by
government to curtail or restrict our legal right to keep and bear
arms, and (2) purchase, practice with, and always keep our own personal
firearms handy. Furthermore, we should always live in a heightened
"state of alert" (even in our own homes), because both
our lives and our liberty may depend on it.