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.
The Billings 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.
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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.
Regardless 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.
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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.
Fortunately, 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.
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For example, 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."
Likewise, Thomas 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."
The Billings 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.
July 18, 2009