Hundreds of bodega workers in New York City are applying for concealed-carry gun permits as the city struggles with ongoing violent theft.
The United Bodegas of America, the union representing bodega workers, announced Sunday that it has helped at least 230 bodega owners apply for firearm licenses.
Bodegas, the city’s small convenience stores, are often located in high-crime neighborhoods, making them a frequent target for criminals, in some cases armed ones.
After the pandemic, the bodega union said it formed a “secret society of gun owners” for bodega employees in New York City to obtain concealed-carry licenses.
The list of which store owners are armed will remain a secret, the union said.
“Anyone that’s out there looking to rob us, hurt us, kill us – beware,” said union spokesman Fernando Mateo. “You may be walking into the wrong bodega because now we have the same firepower you have.”
The union connects store owners with concealed-carry classes required by the state to obtain a permit. Instructors like Johnny Nunez, a retired NYPD sergeant and former New York City police academy instructor, teach the courses.
The gun ownership movement comes in the wake of several high-profile deadly crimes in bodegas over the last few years.
Back in 2018, a 15-year-old boy entered a Bronx bodega before he was dragged out and stabbed to death by Trinitarios gang members. In March, a double shooting at a Bronx bodega left one man dead.
Just weeks before that, a deli worker on the Upper East Side was shot and killed by an armed robber with a criminal record. In October, a man shot another man in the stomach and chased him into a bodega before police arrived. The victim ultimately died.
Bodegas are not the only retail stores packing heat in New York. About a quarter of the National Supermarket Association’s members in the city are now carrying guns as well, compared to only 10% before the pandemic, the group said.
Robberies, assaults, burglaries, and grand larceny are all up double-digit percentages from two years ago in New York City, although they are down this year from last year, according to NYPD data. Shootings are down significantly after spiking in 2020, after which the bodega union began its push for gun licenses.
Retail theft has also risen dramatically. From 2021 to 2022, shoplifting complaints jumped 44%, the mayor’s office said earlier this year. More than 300 repeat offenders committed 30% of last year’s retail thefts, which totaled more than 22,000 incidents, Mayor Eric Adams (D) said in May when he launched a task force to combat the issue.
The bodega union’s president, Radhames Rodriguez, 60, owns several bodegas in the Bronx and said he obtained his concealed-carry license two months ago and bought a 9mm Smith & Wesson pistol. Rodriguez said that in the 1980s, he had a “premises” gun permit, but he let his license lapse as the city became less dangerous in recent decades.
Now, however, “it started looking like in the ‘80s, the ‘90s,” Rodriguez told the New York Post. “That’s why I applied, and this is why I have it.”
Why It Matters (op-ed)
As NYC struggles with increasing crime rates, bodega workers are taking matters into their own hands. The United Bodegas of America’s efforts to arm store owners is a testament to the government’s failure to protect citizens.
This “secret society of gun owners” is a wake-up call for city leaders who must address the rising crime wave. Store owners shouldn’t have to risk their lives to run a business, but they’re left with no choice.
The surge in gun permit applications highlights the need for effective policies that protect citizens and deter criminals. Let’s hope this serves as a catalyst for change.
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