New York’s new body armour law mocked for failing to include vest worn by Buffalo shooter

New York has passed a new law barring the sale of bullet-resistant vests, but the legislation has drawn some criticism as it does not prohibit the kind of vest used by the man who killed 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket in a mass shooting earlier this year.

During that attack, the shooter wore a steel-plated vest, which was strong enough to stop a handgun bullet shot by a security guard who was trying to take him down.

The New York law focuses mainly on "bullet-resistant soft body armour," according to the Associated Press. That kind of vest is often worn beneath clothes and can be very effective at stopping handgun bullets.

However, the Buffalo shooter was wearing a military-style plate carrier with a steel plate, which is not prohibited under the new law. Those vests and the plates used with them are intended for active combat zones and can resist shots from rifles.


Brad Pedell, who runs a tactical gear store that sells body armour in New Your City, said he and other retailers were confused by exactly what the new law prohibits.

"I know you said soft vests, but what about hard armor plates, plate carriers, or armors that aren't vests, but clothing that provide protection. Is that also prohibited? It is so vague," he said.

The bullet-resistant vests prohibited under the law can only be bought by members of law enforcement and by other individuals whose jobs require them to wear protective vests. The jobs that will be included in that designation are still being determined by lawmakers, adding to the confusion.

The Deadline Club, New York City's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, has urged state lawmakers to make exceptions for news organisations, whose reporters and photographers sometimes need to purchase and use protective vests in the course of their work, particularly in active conflict zones.

"I know a number of photographers who have worn protective gear as a precautionary measure while out in situations that may get violent," Peter Szekely, the group's advocacy chair, said.

The ban allows for most of the most effective body armour to still be sold to consumers.

Jonathon Jacobson, a New York assemblymember and a lead sponsor of the legislation, told the AP he would be "glad to amend the law to make it even stronger."

The state's governor, Kathy Hochul, said she was also aware that stricter regulations would be necessary to give the law real teeth.

"Governor Hochul was proud to sign the groundbreaking new law passed by the legislature to restrict sales of body armor, and will work with the legislature to expand the definitions in the law at the first available opportunity," a statement from her office said.

Mr Pendell told the AP that most of his customers purchase the vests for their own safety.

"It's disappointing because residents are just scared, and they come to us because they are scared, and we offer help that makes them feel more confident, that they won't get stabbed or injured or potentially killed," he said. "The fact [lawmakers] are taking that away, for whatever purpose they have in their minds, I find that really sad and unnecessary and morally wrong."

The purpose of the law it to prevent criminals and potential mass shooters from gaining an advantage in their encounters with police or security guards.

According to data collected by The Violence Project, a nonprofit think tank that maintains a database on mass shootings, 12 per cent of shooters who killed four or more people in a public space since 1966 have worn bullet-resistant vests.