The murder of a teenage boy in the Bronx neighborhood of New York City has led lawmakers to propose legislation that would require small businesses to help minors in need.
“Junior’s Law,” named after Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz, is being proposed by two New York state lawmakers, State Sen. Luis Sepúlveda and Assemblyman Victor Pichardo. The proposed set of bills comes one month after Guzman-Feliz was murdered by a group of gang members outside of a deli bodega in the neighborhood.
Guzman-Feliz was being beaten by members of the Trinintarios gang when he stumbled inside the bodega. Those gang members pulled him back outside, but he managed to escape them and come back inside.
The owner of the bodega, according to security footage, pointed and escorted Guzman-Feliz outside of his business, which many people interpreted as him kicking the minor out. Guzman-Feliz was murdered shortly after.
The bodega owner, Modesto Cruz, however, said he wasn’t kicking Guzman-Feliz out but rather was trying to point him in the direction of a nearby hospital.
Regardless of the discrepancies surrounding what happened, lawmakers agree that small businesses should be required to help minors in similar situations and offer them first aid on-site if they need it.
“While the bodega owner where the incident occurred did try to help and did call 911 twice, according to police, we want to make sure that any business owner or their employees who encounter a situation involving a minor who has been abused or may be in danger has a duty to try to help,” Sepúlveda said in announcing the legislation.
“Junior’s Law” would require small businesses across the state to provide a safe haven to minors facing similar situations, whether they’re seeking a place to hide from domestic abuse or trying to escape a gang attack. The bill would also require owners to have first aid kits available on their premises.
Some people may view the law as overburdening small businesses with regulations they must adhere to. But these are common-sense proposals that would ensure children could feel safe from harm no matter what business they may enter.
More bills like these ought to be considered that aim to help children, and we should reject any calls to repeal laws that would result in more harm to kids. If we do not show empathy toward a segment of the population that is most vulnerable, then we cannot say that we are a moral or just society.
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