Maeve Bidonde, Staff Writer
Recently a secret society has been helping bodega owners in New York City legally obtain guns to protect themselves during a robbery. The licenses for the guns given to bodega owners carry permits to hold legal possession and conceal any hints of forgery. The secret society is a part of the United Bodegas of America, a corporation founded on protecting community members from criminal activity.
“They created the ‘secret society of gun owners’ to take their safety into their own hands. Claiming this isn’t to have a permit to kill, but rather a permit to defend themselves,” says a report from Fox 5 NYC. Bodega owners are concerned about their safety if a robbery should happen and the NYPD isn’t there to protect them in time. This has led the owners to take matters into their own hands and accept the corporation’s aid. The knowledge of which bodega owners do and don’t have guns is kept secret.
The need to have concealed firearms didn’t come overnight. In fact it came from numerous robberies and other violent crimes over the years, such as the attack on fifteen-year-old Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz in the Bronx. Back in 2015, Guzman-Feliz ran into a bodega store to hide from the Trinitarios Gang. He was tracked down and found by them before dragging Guzman-Feliz out of the store. He was killed by the gang moments later. Without anything to defend themselves, the bodega owners have taken it as their responsibility to defend their customers and community from those who would threaten their safety. It took two years for bodega owners to get permits because they wanted to be trained. The owners took classes to learn how to safely handle a firearm under the instructions of a retired NYPD Sergeant and a former academy instructor.
Another notable incident that made having a gun a necessity occurred last summer. Former bodega clerk Jose Alba was working behind the counter of his store in Harlem when he was attacked by ex-con Austin Simon. This altercation led to the fatal stabbing of Simon in self defense.
The National Supermarket Association said that out of the six-hundred independent grocers they represent an estimated quarter of them are currently packing heat. This is a sharp increase from the pre-pandemic 10% percent. Bodega owners felt it prudent to arm themselves when the police were slow to respond to a call of emergency in the past. And after a robbery, the perpetrator is often never caught. Last March in Spanish Harlem, an owner of One Deli was shot, the same month where a beloved bodega owner in the Upper East Side was also fatally shot during a robbery. In response to these actions, the United Bodegas of America has helped two-hundred and thirty owners get concealed carry permits.
Bodega owners look now to be better prepared and cautious of any kind of attack. With concealed carry permits and guns, owners are hoping to defend themselves until the cops arrive. There’s no telling at the moment if this call for action will be good or bad for Bodega owners. This may just encourage robbers to up their game to adapt to their target’s defense. Only time will tell what’s to come next.