A bodega association calling for the dismissal of murder charges against a clerk said on Tuesday that it does not believe the solution to bodega safety is arming store owners with guns.
The statement from the Yemeni American Merchants Association Tuesday night contradicts comments from the United Bodegas of America following a joint meeting earlier that day with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who has been facing criticism over murder charges against Jose Alba, a bodega worker in upper Manhattan.
Alba has been accused of fatally stabbing a person in early July who appears to have accosted him behind the counter in surveillance footage — evidence that critics of the charges have clung to as demonstrating clear act of self-defense.
“Following the meeting, the United Bodegas of America stated their desire to enact new gun laws that would arm their bodega owners,” a statement released by YAMA reads. “The Yemeni American Merchants Association wants to state clearly that we do not share this view and do not believe that placing more guns in the community is a solution to keep bodegas safe.”
A spokesperson for UBA declined to comment. In a press conference following the Tuesday meeting, spokesperson and co-founder Fernando Mateo capped his optimism toward Alba’s case with a call to arm bodega owners.
“We want to make sure that every bodega owner in New York City that is law abiding, that feels the necessity to carry a licensed gun, to go and apply for it. Why? Because you need to be able to defend yourself in your place of business. You need to be able to defend your life, your family and your business,” Mateo said.
DA spokesperson Doug Cohen referred Gothamist to an earlier statement following the meeting, saying “D.A. Bragg expressed support for New York’s strong gun laws, and emphasized that more guns in our communities make us less safe.”
The latest wrinkle in the drama surrounding Alba’s murder charges ties in with an even deeper fissure across the United States: gun violence and the policies that seek to curb it. In recent months, the country has seen a spate of mass shootings and gun-related deaths, including a massacre in a Buffalo supermarket being weighed by federal prosecutors as a hate crime.
The Supreme Court, meanwhile, delivered a major blow to New York’s restrictive gun laws in June, declaring the state’s concealed carry law unconstitutional and furthering a flurry to legislate new protections at the state level. That included the establishment of a permitting process for concealed carry and the designation of schools, public transit and Times Square as some of the “sensitive locations” where guns are prohibited.
YAMA, in its statement, affirmed bodegas’ role as “an important part of the fabric of New York City.” It called for “real investment in the security of our community,” in the form of high-tech security cameras in bodegas and partnerships with law enforcement authorities.