Baxley says Trayvon Martin case being used by Obama and Democratsby John Kennedy | September 4th, 2013
The House sponsor of Florida’s controversial stand your ground law said Wednesday that he is frustrated that President Obama and others are using the measure and the Trayvon Martin case to rally opposition against Republicans.
Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, condemned what he called the “manipulation” of a tragic situation. Baxley spoke at a Republican club in Tallahassee where later this month, lawmakers plan to hold a public hearing on the self-defense law.
“He went from a position of saying ‘this young man could be my son’ to ‘this could be me,’” Baxley said of Obama. “When he merged those images, I couldn’t help but feel some political implications to that.”
Baxley said others like the Rev. Al Sharpton have been more explict, saying the Martin case and calls for repeal of stand your ground are aimed at the 2014 and 2016 elections. But Baxley said Republicans are not going to be pressured into overturning a law that he said has heightened public safety.
“Let’s face it. In a political environment, people are going to use whatever they have,” Baxley told reporters after speaking to the Capital City Republican Club. “But let’s don’t let them misuse it.”
The law, approved in 2005 unanimously by the Florida Senate and in an overwhelming, 94-20 vote in the House, was not used by lawyers defending George Zimmerman in the shooting death of the unarmed teen-ager. But it did shape the jury instructions given to the six-woman jury which acquitted Zimmerman.
Florida is among two-dozen states with stand your ground laws, allowing residents to use deadly force to protect themselves.
Before these new laws emerged, people who felt threatened outside their homes were required to flee an attacker if they could before using force to defend themselves.
Like Baxley, House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, sees little need to change the stand your ground law. But Weatherford has said the House Criminal Justice Committee will hold a hearing this month on the law, mostly to hear testimony from law enforcement authorities about any difficulties they’ve faced with implementing the measure.
Legislation, however, also has been filed to repeal the law — or modify its use.
Leaders of the activist group, Dream Defenders, which staged a 31-day sit-in at the Florida Capitol ending last month, said they plan to attend the House hearing. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement released a report Wednesday that said providing Capitol Police security at the sit-in cost taxpayers more than $172,500 in overtime expenses.