Dennis K. Baxley

Saturday, April 1st, 2006

Florida State Rep. Dennis K. Baxley of Ocala, Florida is the CCRKBA Gun Rights Defender of the Month for April.
 In nominating Rep. Baxley for the Award, John Michael Snyder, CCRKBA Public Affairs Director, explained his thinking.
 “In recent years,” said Snyder, “Florida has become one of the states most considerate of the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms for purposes of self-defense as well as for other legitimate reasons.  This development has come about to a large extent because of the efforts of a number of individuals.  It hasn’t just happened.  People have worked to make it happen.  One of these people, in fact one of the leaders of this effort is Rep. Baxley.  It is because of this that it would be appropriate to grant him this Award.”
 It was just a year ago this month that the Florida House of Representatives, by an overwhelming vote of 94 to 20, passed Rep. Baxley’s bill to give potential victims of violent crime the right to “meet force with force.”  The bill had passed the State Senate, and was signed into law by Gov. Jeb Bush.
 The law eliminates the need to try to retreat before using deadly force.  Rep. Baxley said, “if I’m attacked, I shouldn’t have a duty to retreat.  That’s a good way to get shot in the back.”
 The law Rep. Baxley sponsored and worked to enact allows citizens to use deadly force without the duty to retreat no matter where the confrontation occurs, and without fear of prosecution or liability if that use is justified.
 This year, Rep. Baxley is right in the middle of another fight over the right to keep and bear arms.
 It seems that, in Florida, as well as in a number of other states as well, where law-abiding citizens generally enjoy relative freedom in their exercise of their right to keep and bear arms, some such citizens feel their rights are being infringed by their employers.  That is because a number of companies have policies that positively prohibit the keeping of firearms in vehicles parked in company parking lots.
 Rep. Baxley and others believe these policies interfere with the Second Amendment rights of workers who feel that, to be safe going to and from work, they ought to be able to bring their guns with them when they drive to and from work.  But if their companies prohibit them from doing this, how can they be safe?
 To try to help out the workers, and others who may want to leave their guns in their cars while they go shopping or for some other legitimate reason, Rep. Baxley early this year introduced HB 129.  This would provide that a person or entity may not establish, maintain, or enforce a policy or rule that has the effect of prohibiting the otherwise lawful possession of a firearm that is locked in or locked to a motor vehicle that is on any premises set aside for the parking of motor vehicles.  Violators could be fined up to $5,000, imprisoned up to five years, or both.
 Rep. Baxley’s proposal created quite a stir within certain elements of the Florida business community, to say the least.   They maintained that they, as private landowners, have a traditional right to regulate behavior on their property.   They said the Baxley proposal would trample upon those rights.  The Florida Retail Federation and the Florida Chamber of Commerce publicly opposed the Baxley bill, as well as an identical Senate version.
 The conflict came to a head in the latter part of February when the Florida House Judiciary Committee met to take up the bill.  It was apparent at the meeting that some Florida legislators who generally support the right to keep and bear arms were hesitant about backing the Baxley proposal.  State Rep. Dennis Ross of Lakeland, for instance, said he’s an NRA member and belongs to numerous hunting groups, but that he’s also a businessman.  “I believe it’s an infringement of my property rights,” he said of the bill.
 Rep. Baxley then decided to pull the bill.  He said he and others might next try to solve the problem with another legislative approach, maybe even with a wrongful termination bill, within a few weeks.
 Born August 22, 1952, Rep. Baxley is a funeral director.  He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology/psychology from Florida State University.  He and his wife, Michelle “Ginette” Begin, have five children and one grandchild.