In a race he dubbed "the battle for UCF," Rene Plasencia won the Florida House seat against fellow UCF alumnus Joe Saunders. Chelsea Daley, President of College Democrats at UCF, who wasn't fickle in her vote for Saunders, says Plasencia has quickly back-pedaled on his promise to keep guns off college campuses.
"I saw a video of him during a debate against Joe Saunders during the election season where [Plasencia] stated that guns would never be on campus," said Chelsea Daley, president of College Democrats at UCF. "I'm really disappointed in him flip-flopping on this situation as soon as it comes up in session."
Plasencia or "Coach P" is a Republican member of the Florida House of Representatives, representing the 49th district, which includes UCF's main campus. He voted in favor of the "guns on campus bill" last week.
The bill, which passed a legislative proposal 6-3, will allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry firearms onto Florida college campuses.
Plasencia calls Daley's accusation an inaccurate statement
"What she is referring to is a video in a debate between myself and Joe Saunders, the person I beat in the last election, and if you watch the video … in the last 10 minutes … you hear Mr. Saunders say, 'you would vote for guns on campus' and I said, 'I've never said that, nor would I do that.' And then I went on to say that the only people who should have guns on campus are our SROs. An SRO is a School Resource Officer that we have in elementary, middle and high school. Having made that statement, would you say I was talking about a college campus or a high school campus?" Plasencia said.
The video, which is available on Plasencia's website, shows the incident, which begins at the 50-minute mark.
Saunders mentions that Plasencia has an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association, and that he would vote for a bill allowing guns on school campuses.
A miffed Plasencia asks how Saunders knows how he would vote on the bill. Saunders asks, "Did you fill out an NRA questionnaire?"
Plasencia responds "Sure, of course." Then Saunders says, "Did they ask you that question?" To which Plasencia replies, "If they did I would have put no. No, I don't think there should be any guns in school. Our SROs have guns in school and that's good enough."
Plasencia says he understands why the College Democrats would say he's flip-flopping.
"It's frustrating because it's kind of bullshit to be honest with you. They say things like, 'Oh, the NRA's behind this,'" Plasencia said. "I've never once spoken to anyone from the NRA. No one from the NRA has ever called me. We're not told how to vote on these bills."
Daley said she is in complete opposition to the bill, and even formed Students Against Guns on Campus with other student organizations in order to protest.
"I feel that since all police chiefs, as well as all university [student body] presidents, [are] in opposition, I trust their perspective on our safety better than any politician's perspective," Daley said.
She is hardly alone in rejecting the bill. UCF Student Body President Weston Bayes has voiced concerns over the legislation.
"From what we've seen with different violence incidents, especially college campus incidents, and the FSU recent tragedy, it's just been kind of apparent that it's not really the best place for guns to be on campus," Bayes said.
The SGA Senate is also working to push through a resolution in opposition to the guns on campus bill.
Florida is the state that holds the highest number of concealed weapons permits with 1.28 million issued as of December 2013, according to the Crime Prevention Resource Center's website.
UCF Police Chief Richard Beary, who is also a trained firearms instructor, said the "concealed weapons permit is just an absolute joke in the state of Florida."
"This whole mindset that, 'Oh, well if somebody's there and they've got a concealed weapons permit, they can be the hero and end this gun fight' — garbage," Beary continued. "They are a bigger threat to the students and they're a bigger threat to themselves than they are assisting law enforcement."
Plasencia said, other than UCF police officers, he hasn't met a law enforcement officer who doesn't agree with the bill.
"There is no legitimate reason why a concealed weapons carrier shouldn't be able to carry a weapon on a college campus. College campus is no different from anywhere else in society," Plasencia said.
Alex Wexelman is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.