The purchase of “body armor” by most civilians should require clearance by the FBI, according to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who announced yesterday he will introduce legislation that would require FBI permission before most civilians can acquire advanced body armor.
Schumer said people “intent on doing evil” turn to sophisticated body armor, citing as examples last Sunday’s mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio and a scare last week at a Missouri Walmart, where a man wearing a bullet proof vest entered the store with a loaded AR-style rifle, a semiautomatic pistol and more than 100 rounds of ammunition, according to police in Springfield, Missouri. On July 28, a gunman wearing tactical gear killed three people at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California. The senator cited other instances of mass shooters wearing tactical protective gear as well.
The man in Missouri last Thursday reportedly told police he was conducting a “social experiment” to test his Second Amendment rights. Missouri law allows people to carry firearms, including concealed weapons, in most locations without a permit. But his presence in the Walmart Thursday, less than a week after a gunman opened fire in a Walmart and shopping center in El Paso, Texas on Aug. 2, killing 22 people, touched off a panic. The man was arrested on a charge of making a terrorist threat.
Schumer said the gunmen who have recently terrorized American cities and communities obtained tactical gear with “shocking ease.”
The body armor used in many of these mass-shootings is widely available across the U.S., Schumer said. Sophisticated armor vests, such as the one used in Ohio, can be purchased online for as low as $185, he said.
“There are few legal barriers to purchasing the armor, aside from convicted violent and drug-related felons being barred,” according to a press release issued by Schumer yesterday.
“Some armor is even marked to protect wearers from armor-piercing bullets used by law enforcement officers. Even some of the most sophisticated tactical gear is available online for just a few hundred dollars,” he said. The high-grade armor available protects the shooter from most attempts by law enforcement and ultimately makes them more difficult to subdue, according to the senator.
Currently, body armor is scarcely regulated throughout the country, Schumer said. The only federal regulation, passed in 2002, was a prohibition on violent or drug-related felons owning or purchasing body armor. The strictest state regulation is in Connecticut, where people must purchase body armor in-person, as opposed to receiving it in the mail, he said.
“As the pattern of these purchases becomes more and more predictable, we have to take a serious look at who is seeking this sophisticated armor and approving of a sale in the first place,” the senator said.
Schumer said his legislation would require FBI permission before anyone except law enforcement “and other safety-related exceptions” can purchase sophisticated body armor. This would empower the FBI to set regulations as to who can get advanced body armor, but would be narrowly tailored, noting a purchase would require a legitimate purpose, like an occupational requirement, he said.
Due to the unregulated nature of body armor sales, there is not a centralized way of tracking ownership or use in shootings, he said. One study found that 5% of a group of 110 active shooters between 2000 and 2012 used body armor. As noted following past uses of body armor by mass-shooters,
Schumer said he will introduce the legislation after the recess.
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