Updated 10/28/2010 07:31 PM
Group Encourages Bodega Owners To Arm Themselves
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At a time when the mayor leads a campaign to reduce the number of guns in the city, bodega owners are being armed in an effort to help them defend themselves against robbers.
Hispanics Across America President Fernando Mateo, who is spearheading the initiative, handed out gun permit applications to bodega owners Thursday in Hamilton Heights.
Mateo says now that the city has lowered prices of gun applications, bodega owners will apply and be better equipped to protect themselves.
"If that bodega owner has a weapon, it sends a message to that guy, 'You know what? You can take my life, but I can take yours as well,'" Mateo said.
"We need protection. We need something in our hands so we can defend because it's real hard when somebody comes and asks you for the money and you don't know what to do because all you see is a gun in your face," said Bodegueros Association President Ramon Murphy.
The group is also calling on the City Council to require surveillance cameras in convenience stores.
Bodega owners and customers who spoke with NY1 all seemed to agree with the gun proposal.
"If you're in a legal business, you should be able to protect yourself, your business and your surroundings," said one bodega customer.
"It is a good idea. Because sometimes in the nighttime they be hanging out here bad peoples so they need to have it, all the bodegas they need to have it," said one bodega owner.
The move comes days after Juan Torres, 54, was gunned down in a robbery attempt at the Lucky Deli and Grocery on Merrick Boulevard in Laurelton.
No arrests have been made in the case.
"It has to stop, it's enough. The pain is great and we don't want nobody else, not one other family to go through this," said Torres' niece, Albania Torres.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly -- both of whom have come out strongly against illegal guns -- say they're not opposed to Mateo's legal permitting program altogether, but did express some concerns.
"Obviously, we do an in-depth investigation on anybody who has a pistol permit either a premise permit or a carry permit and that process will go forward if they actually submit these applications," Kelly said.
"You know, guns in the hands of kids and guns in the hands of criminals is what I'm focusing on," said the mayor.
Mateo says he will be speaking with the governor's office in hopes of taking the program statewide and ultimately nationwide.