Q&A: Baxley talks about ‘stand your ground,’ other issues facing Legislature
Jan 10, 2013
By THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

Related Coverage:

2013 Legislative Session

TALLAHASSEE (NSF)—Rep. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has been in the news in recent weeks. 

Baxley was sponsor of the controversial 2005 “stand your ground” law, currently under review by a gubernatorial task force, on which Baxley serves, in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death in February. Another Baxley-sponsored law related to early voting rules was the subject of criticism in the 2012 general election.

An Ocala funeral director, Baxley was elected to the state House in 2000, served until 2007, ran for the state Senate, lost, and was reelected to the House in 2010. While out of office, he was executive director of the Christian Coalition of Florida. He was honored with the NRA’s Defender of Freedom Award in 2004. He and his wife, Micheline, have five children.

Baxley, a member of the Florida Baptist Witness board of directors, is a member of The Vine Community Church, a Southern Baptist church in South Ocala.

BAXLEY

Q: How will you respond to calls for legislative changes to the “stand your ground” law?

BAXLEY: I’m going to be very cautious about any effort to diminish or repeal the self-defense provisions that we have. A law-abiding citizen who’s doing nothing wrong, who comes under a violent attack, should not be re-victimized by the legal system and treated as a criminal when he did the right thing: he stopped a violent act. Or she stopped a violent act. By and large, I find that most of the population has a lot of confidence in our self-defense statute. 

I think what we have uncovered is there’s some real issues in uniform application and understanding of what the statute is or is not. There’s nothing in that statute that authorizes you to confront, provoke, pursue. There will be many people reach for this statute as a defense that are going to find it’s not what they think it is.

I think there could be some greater uniformity developed in education of law enforcement, how to apply this feature of the law. The court system is evolving, with precedents and procedures, a more uniform application. The best thing about some of the current stories is there’s a better understanding of what the policy is. 

At the end of the day, if you empower people to stop violent acts from occurring, they can, they will and they did.

Q: What do you hope will emerge from your new committee chairmanship? 

BAXLEY: Judiciary touches a lot of issues I care deeply about. Definitely the criminal justice background, where I’ve chaired that subcommittee before, has some areas that I’d like to work on. Looking at smart justice ideas is going to be a big part of this session. And I also think we’ll get to address some of the self-defense bill aspects.

That work in the civil justice arena is also very important to business and the productivity of the state. You know, in the business world, not having a decision is the most paralyzing effect of not having the judiciary operating in order. So we want to make sure we’ve done all we can to help that function correctly.

Q: Are you approaching your committee with an eye to accountability?

BAXLEY: Absolutely. I think there’s two parts to this. One is, I truly believe in personal accountability in that each of us, whatever’s happened to us, we don’t benefit from being self-identified as victims but instead empowered to take responsibility for ourselves and our actions. 

Related Coverage:

2013 Legislative Session

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