Wagswoofs – They are fully equipped and ready for action.
As the epidemic of violent theft continues to plague their businesses, hundreds of supermarket and bodega owners in the Big Apple are taking matters into their own hands by arming themselves.
In the last year, the United Bodegas of America and the Bodega and Small Business Group have assisted over 230 store owners in applying for their gun licenses. They have connected these owners with concealed-carry classes, which are necessary in order to obtain a permit according to state requirements.
The National Supermarket Association, which represents approximately 600 independent grocers, has estimated that a quarter of its members in the city are now carrying firearms, as opposed to the pre-pandemic rate of 10%.
“You understand the need because the crime rate in the city is getting out of control,” explained a supermarket owner. He had recently bought a 9mm SIG Sauer handgun in response to a break-in at his store in Ridgewood, Queens. Thieves had cut a hole in the roof, stolen $3,000, and vandalized the cash registers and surveillance system.”
“I feel much safer when I have a weapon with me,” the 50-year-old individual expressed, particularly when visiting the bank.
The grocer who carries a gun stated that he hasn’t had to use his firearm yet. However, he makes it a point to practice once a week, preparing for the worst-case scenario where he might need to protect himself and his staff.
“I have no idea who I’ll encounter or what I’ll face when I enter or leave,” he remarked.
Radhames Rodriguez, a Bronx bodega owner, recently acquired a 9mm Smith & Wesson pistol following the issuance of his concealed-carry license two months ago.
Rodriguez, who is also the UBA president, emphasized the importance of self-defense when faced with life-threatening situations. “If someone approaches me with a gun or a knife, endangering my life and the lives of my loved ones, I need to take action to protect myself and my family,” stated the 60-year-old.
According to Rodriguez, he had a gun permit for his business in the past to ensure its safety during the crime-ridden ’80s. However, as the city underwent significant improvements under the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations, he allowed the license to expire.
“With the recent surge of violence, it began to resemble the turbulent times of the 80s and 90s,” he expressed. “This is precisely why I decided to obtain a new gun license and why I possess it.”
According to retired NYPD Sgt. Johnny Nunez, who leads 18-hour courses covering gun safety and live firearm training, many grocers have felt the need to arm themselves. This is partly due to slower police responses to their emergency calls. These grocers are required by New York State to undergo these courses in order to obtain a concealed-carry permit.
According to Nunez, many bodega and supermarket owners have been attending his classes because they acknowledge the decrease in police presence on the streets and feel the need to protect themselves in light of the ongoing rallies.
He added that these factors, along with the increase in crime compared to pre-pandemic levels, are driving them to seek a sense of protection.
Gun-toting grocers are on the rise after the Supreme Court made a groundbreaking decision last year. The court struck down New York State’s long-standing law that limited the carrying of handguns in public. The law required applicants to demonstrate a specific reason for needing a firearm beyond general protection.
Shoplifting incidents have seen a sharp increase in recent years, with complaints soaring to 54,229 through Nov. 30 compared to 37,919 incidents reported in 2019, according to data from the NYPD.
According to UBA spokesman Fernando Mateo, the criminals are in control of the situation. They are the ones committing robberies and murders, and worst of all, getting away with it.
In March, tragedy struck when a much-loved clerk at a bodega on the Upper East Side lost their life in a fatal shooting during a late-night robbery. Similarly, in June, two robbers targeted a deli clerk in Spanish Harlem, shooting them in the groin and viciously assaulting a customer with a pistol-whip. These incidents highlight the alarming rise in violence and crime in our communities.
Four men robbed a Woodside bodega employee at gunpoint in May, making off with a minimum of $6,000.
Mateo emphasized the importance of matching the enemy’s firepower as a deterrent strategy. He stated, “If we can fight with the same firepower, they’re going to think about it twice.”
According to an NYPD spokesperson, there has been a decrease of 5.2% in robbery incidents and a decrease of 3.1% in grand larceny incidents from November 26 compared to the same time period last year.
According to recent data, there has been a noticeable rise in arrests related to robbery and grand larceny. Specifically, these arrests have shown an increase of 11% and 18% respectively, when comparing the current year to the corresponding time period in 2022.