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Lawmakers Consider Body Armor Bans After Mass Shootings

Calls for new gun restrictions inevitably follow most mass shootings, including the one that killed 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket six weeks ago. After the Tops supermarket massacre, legislators in several states also have turned their attention to a new target: civilian body armor, reports Stateline.

Such equipment—including helmets, bulletproof vests and armor plates—is designed to protect soldiers and law enforcement officers in the line of duty. Until recently, no state but Connecticut had restricted how ordinary citizens buy and sell military-grade tactical gear.

Critics say the armor has empowered violent criminals—including mass shooters—to return fire at law enforcement and extend their rampages.

Over the past 20 years, sales of body armor—like sales of guns and ammunition—have grown steadily among the general population, said Aaron Westrick, a professor of criminal justice at Lake Superior State University who has worked with body armor companies and law enforcement.

That has complicated procedures for police officers, who now must train to shoot around body armor, and alarmed some lawmakers and advocates, who question why so many people own tactical gear intended for combat.

New York passed the nation’s first body armor ban June 6; it is a narrow prohibition on soft body vests that legislators have said they will soon expand. Pennsylvania Democrats have promised to introduce body armor legislation this session. On June 16, three of New York’s U.S. representatives—two Democrats and a Republican—introduced a bill to bar nationally the sale of high-performance body armor to civilians.

Even among researchers who study gun violence, there’s some doubt that restrictions on body armor sales will make shootings less deadly or less frequent.

According to the Gun Violence Project, 21 mass shooters in the past 40 years have worn body armor. “The shooter in Uvalde had it, in Buffalo, in Aurora, in Boulder, in Sutherland Springs,” New Jersey state Sen. Joseph Cryan, a former county sheriff, said of the Tops shooting and other massacres in Texas and Colorado. “Why do we have to wait for another one?”


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