New rules on bulletproof vests in New York worn by Buffalo killer
New York’s new law banning the sale of body armor to most civilians does not cover the type of armor worn by the shooter who killed 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket, a shortcoming that could limit its effectiveness to deter future military-style attacks.
During the May 14 attack, Payton Gendron wore a steel-plated vest, armor strong enough to stop a handgun bullet fired by a store security guard who attempted to stop Gendron’s rampage.
A law hastily enacted by state lawmakers after the attack restricts sales of vests defined as “soft body armor”.
Soft vests, which are lightweight and can be concealed under clothing, can be effective against pistol shots. Vests bearing steel, ceramic or polyethylene plates, which can potentially stop shotgun shells, are not explicitly covered by the legislation.
It has left some retailers confused about what they can and cannot sell – and lawmakers are talking about a possible solution.
“I know you mentioned soft vests, but what about hard armor plates, plate carriers, or armor that’s not vests, but clothing that provides protection. That’s also banned? It’s so vague,” said Brad Pedell, who runs 221B Tactical, a tactical gear and body armor store in New York City. He said his store tended to sell more armor with hard plates than the soft type prohibits.
With the toughest armor still allowed to be sold, “I’m not convinced this legislation is very meaningful,” said Warren Eller, professor of public policy at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Assemblyman Jonathon Jacobson, one of the key sponsors of the legislation, told The Associated Press he would be “happy to change the law to make it even stronger.”
New York Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, is also aware of the need for changes, her office said.
“Governor Hochul was proud to sign the groundbreaking new law passed by the legislature to restrict the sales of body armor, and will work with the legislature to expand the law’s definitions at the earliest opportunity,” he said. .
Nationally, there are few limits on body armor sales. Before the New York law was passed, Connecticut had one of the few restrictions. It only allows people to buy it in person from resellers, not mail order.
Pedell says many customers at his New York store buy the armor for their own protection.
“It’s disappointing because the residents are just scared, and they come to us because they’re scared, and we’re offering help that makes them more confident that they won’t be stabbed or hurt or potentially killed,” Pedell said. “The fact (lawmakers) take that away, whatever purpose they have in mind, I find that really sad and unnecessary and morally wrong.”
New York’s ban aims to prevent criminals from gaining an advantage over peace officers or security guards like Aaron Salter, who was killed trying to stop the racist shooter attack on the Buffalo supermarket .
Among shooters who have killed four or more people in a public space since 1966, 12% were wearing life jackets, said sociologist James Densley, co-founder of The Violence Project, a nonprofit think tank with a mass shooting database.
New York law restricts soft body armor sales to individuals who work in law enforcement and the military, as well as individuals in certain other occupations that require protective equipment. The list of job types that qualify someone to purchase armor, and which ones do not, has yet to be determined by state officials.
The New York State Department said in an emailed statement that officials are reviewing the new law and plan to develop regulations for eligible occupations requiring the use of a lifejacket.
Leaders of the Deadline Club, the New York chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, had urged Hochul to veto the bill, citing concerns about whether it would be difficult for news outlets to buy a armor for journalists who work in conflict zones or cover civil unrest in the United States
“I know of a number of photographers who have worn protective gear as a precaution when in situations that could turn violent,” said Peter Szekely, the group’s advocacy chairman.
New Yorkers are still allowed to own vests and buy them in other states, although Jacobson, a Democrat, said he would work to eliminate that option in the next legislative session in January.
“We wanted to get things done as quickly as possible and not let the perfect get in the way of the good,” Jacobson said. “Like all New York State laws, we are always trying to improve them in the future. Of course, we will try to improve this law.
Maysoon Khan is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues. Follow Maysoon Khan on Twitter.