NEW YORK CITY - The United Bodegas of America announced Sunday it formed a "secret society" after the pandemic for bodega workers and owners across New York City to legally obtain a concealed carry license.
Hundreds are now rightful gun owners. 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.
"Anyone that's out there looking to rob us, hurt us, kill us – beware," Fernando Mateo, a spokesperson for the UBA, said. "You may be walking into the wrong bodega because now we have the same firepower you have."
The process took nearly two years because they wanted to do it safely, legally and secretly. Knowledge of which bodega owners carrying a concealed gun will be kept a secret.
"You don't know want anyone to shoot you before they rob you because they know you have a weapon," Mateo added.
The announcement was made at the UBA headquarters in Inwood, where the courses are held by duly authorized instructors such as Johnny Nunez – a retired NYPD sergeant and former New York City police academy instructor.
"Having a firearm is a defensive tool," Nunez said. "It’s not an offensive tool. [It’s] to be used when your life or the life of another human is in – keywords – imminent danger."
According to the group, its only intended use of guns is to prevent themselves or someone in their store from getting killed.
In 2015, Lesandro ‘Junior’ Guzman-Feliz, the 15-year-old boy who was brutally murdered in the Bronx, sought shelter in a bodega before he was dragged out and killed by Trinitarios gang members.
Guzman-Feliz, 15, sought shelter in a bodega before he was dragged out and killed by Trinitarios gang members back in 2015.
Last summer, Jose Alba was working behind the counter of a Harlem bodega when a suspect aggressively shoved him. Alba fatally stabbed the man in self-defense.
Alba was working behind the counter of a Harlem bodega last summer when a suspect aggressively shoved him.
"We are not out here to provoke any incidents," Mateo said. "We're trained to deescalate situations, but we ae also trained to use a firearm if we have to."
Barbara Moreta is from the Dominican Republic and has owned a bodega since 2015. She's considering applying for a permit through the group.
"When they see a woman, they think they can do everything, but if I have my gun, I think it's better for the store," Moreta said. "And [if] some people anything come to do something bad, [they’ll be] scared."
The 2022 Supreme Court ruling in the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen case made it easier for the group to overcome obstacles in obtaining permits and licenses.
There are up to 15,000 current members in the UBA and as more obtain their licenses through the "secret society," it will remain a "secret society."