NYC bodega owners, grocers arming themselves with guns amid violent thefts plaguing Big Apple
They’re stocked, locked, and loaded.
Hundreds of Big Apple supermarket and bodega owners are arming themselves as the epidemic of violent theft continues to plague their businesses.
Over the past year, the United Bodegas of America and the Bodega and Small Business Group said they’ve helped at least 230 store owners apply for their gun licenses, connecting them with concealed-carry classes required by the state to obtain a permit.
The National Supermarket Association, which represents roughly 600 independent grocers, estimated a quarter of its members in the city are packing heat, compared to 10% pre-pandemic.
“You see the necessity because the city is getting out of hand with the crime rate,” said one supermarket owner, who purchased a 9mm SIG Sauer handgun two months ago, after thieves cut a hole in the roof of his Ridgewood, Queens, store to steal $3,000 and smash up the registers and camera system.
“I feel safer having a . . . weapon with me,” the 50-year-old said, especially when going to the bank.
The gun-toting grocer said he hasn’t had to use his firearm, but practices once a week for the worst-case scenario where he needs to defend himself and his staff.
“I don’t know who is coming in, what I’ll confront, on my way in, on my way out,” he said.
Radhames Rodriguez, who owns several bodegas in the Bronx, said he purchased a 9mm Smith & Wesson pistol after obtaining his concealed-carry license two months ago.
“If I see somebody coming to me and I’m going to lose my life because somebody’s got a gun aimed at me, a knife, I need to protect myself and my family,” said Rodriguez, 60, who is also the UBA president.
Rodriguez said he previously had a “premises” gun permit to protect his business during the crime-ridden ’80s, but as the city cleaned up under the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations, he let the license lapse.
With the recent wave of violence, “it started looking like in the ‘80s, the ‘90s,” he said. “That’s why I applied [for my new gun license], and this is why I have it.”
Many grocers have felt an increasing need to arm themselves partly because of slower police responses to their emergency calls, according to retired NYPD Sgt. Johnny Nunez, who leads 18-hour courses covering gun safety and live firearm training that are required by New York State for obtaining a concealed-carry permit.
“They recognize that there’s less cops on the street, they’re attending all these rallies, and [they] have to defend [themselves],” said Nunez, whose classes have been attended by many bodega and supermarket owners.
“Those factors, and the fact that crime is up [compared to pre-pandemic levels], that’s what’s driving them to at least feel protected,” he added.
The surge in gun-toting grocers follows the Supreme Court’s landmark decision last year to strike down New York State’s century-old law, which severely restricted who could carry handguns in public by requiring applicants to show “proper cause” for needing the weapon beyond general protection.
It also follows a jump in shoplifting in recent years, with complaints soaring to 54,229 through Nov. 30, versus 37,919 incidents for all of 2019, per NYPD data.
“The criminals have the upper hand — they’re the ones going out there robbing us, murdering us . . . getting away with it,” UBA spokesman Fernando Mateo told The Post.
In March, a beloved Upper East Side bodega clerk was fatally shot during a late-night robbery, while two robbers shot a Spanish Harlem deli clerk in the groin and pistol-whipped a customer in June.
In May, four men held a Woodside bodega employee at gunpoint before stealing at least $6,000.
“If we can fight with the same firepower, they’re going to think about it twice,” Mateo said.