Bodega Association Hoping (and Helping) to Legally Arm NYC Workers

And given the snail-like pace of permit approvals in the Big Apple, we should start seeing the first concealed carry licenses issued to bodega workers sometime in 2028 or thereabouts.

Okay, it probably won’t take that long, especially since the group United Bodegas of America has been engaged in the effort since shortly after the Supreme Court handed down its decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. Last July, just a few weeks after the Bruen decision was released, we covered UBA’s co-founder Fernando Mateo’s comments urging bodega workers to get legally armed to defend themselves on the job, but the group’s apparently been offering more than mere words of encouragement since then.

“Make sure they are ready to protect themselves in case of a physical attack, in case of an armed attack,” said Fernando Mateo, head of the United Bodegas of America.
Mateo said his association has quietly been helping workers obtain carry permits since June 2022, when the Supreme Court struck down a New York law that placed strict restrictions on carrying concealed firearms in public for self defense.
“Thanks to the Supreme Court ruling right now, able to break down the barriers that were preventing us from applying for a pistol,” Mateo said.

This being New York, you can imagine that the reaction to Mateo’s work (and the interest of many bodega workers) isn’t unabashed enthusiasm in many quarters.

“I’m not sure having a gun is going to stop violent behavior,” said Dr. Iesha Sekou, founder of Street Corner Resources. “I think we’re going to more likely see the gun used in a way that it should not have been.”
“Having these bodega personnel with firearms … if something does go down in that bodega, now police have another firearm that they have to react to,” security expert Manny Gomez said.
Gomez is also a former FBI special agent.
“People who don’t have the training that law enforcement and others have having a firearm … in comes a shoplifter, and they get into words with a shoplifter and out comes the firearm, and the situation is immediately dangerously escalated,” Gomez said.

If Gomez’s biggest concern is that police might respond to a shootout rather than a cold-blooded murder of defenseless workers, I’d say he’s missing the plot.

I hate to break it to Gomez, but wearing a badge doesn’t make you immune from needlessly escalating a situation. Could a bodega worker who’s licensed to carry do something wrong and make a shoplifting situation worse? Of course. But Gomez seems unwilling to consider the possibility that the same employee just might end up using their gun in self-defense, as we’ve seen in countless defensive gun uses around the country.

According to Mateo, several hundred bodega workers have already obtained their NYC carry permits, though he hasn’t said how long they’ve had to wait before getting approved from the NYPD Licensing Bureau or how many have been turned down. Back in July, however, reporters Gwynne Hogan and Suhail Bhat discovered that the approval rates actually declined after the Bruen decision was released.

In the six months after the high court’s ruling in New York State Rifle vs. Bruen, from June 24, 2022 to Dec. 31, 2022, the NYPD saw a surge in new gun permit applications, from just over 2,000 in the same period a year earlier to nearly 5,000. So far, the department has approved 503 of those, or just above 10%, despite its guidelines and state law requiring applications to be decided upon within six months.

I’d love to believe that the NYPD has picked up the pace since then, but there have been few, if any, signs that’s the case. Still, as Hogan and Bhat relayed, few applications have been denied outright (at least as of July), so the department seems to be slow-walking its approval rather than denying applicants outright. That doesn’t make it any better, especially given the statutory requirements the NYPD appears to be blithely ignoring, and if a number of the employees that United Bodegas of America is helping have experienced those lengthy delays, Mateo might want to reach out to groups like the Firearms Policy Coalition or Second Amendment Foundation to see if there’s any interest in supporting a lawsuit challenging the unduly long waiting period these workers are facing.

I realize that for New York City, armed convenience store workers is a new concept, but there’s nothing unusual about it in most parts of the country… at least if the convenience store chain doesn’t have a policy requiring their employees to be disarmed on the job. And while the idea of armed employees might be controversial in the Big Apple, when armed robbers are murdering retail workers I’d say it’s long past time to recognize those workers’ right to armed self-defense… both on and off the clock.

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