A lawmaker in New York has authorized legislation that would make it illegal for civilians to purchase or own bulletproof vests in the state.
The bill, introduced by Democratic Assemblyman Jonathan G. Jacobson and pre-filed on Jan. 6, would require New Yorkers currently in possession of such a vest to hand them over to police within 15 days of the bill becoming law.
It would also ban law-abiding citizens from purchasing bulletproof vests. The legislation, if approved, will make New York the first state in the United States to make it illegal for citizens to buy or own ballistic vests.
“The purchase or possession of a body vest shall be a class A misdemeanor for a first offense and a class E felony for each subsequent offense,” Jacobson’s bill states.
According to the bill, the restraint will not be applied to “active law enforcement officers” or those whose jobs require the use of body armor as determined by the Department of State.
The Firearms Policy Coalition—a nonprofit organization that advocates the right to keep and bear arms—campaigned against the bill, questioning why law-abiding citizens shouldn’t be allowed the same protection as law enforcement officials.
NEW YORK: If passed, this law would go into effect sixty days later and anyone currently in possession of a body vest would be required to turn it into the police within the following fifteen days. Take action now at https://t.co/22Mse3yYA1 #2A #RKBA #NewYork pic.twitter.com/FPvho7qvpa
— Firearms Policy Coalition (@gunpolicy) January 14, 2021
“As is tradition, police are exempt from this new restraint on the right to keep and bear arms,” the group said, which has since created a website in opposition to the proposal.
The Second Amendment advocacy group said on the website that the proposed legislation would deprive “New Yorkers of their right to passive defense by instituting a confiscatory ban on body armor.”
“Under the proposed legislation, the first offense for the purchase or possession of a body vest would be a Class A misdemeanor, which may result in up to a year in prison,” the group states. “Subsequent offenses would constitute a Class E felony, which carries a potential sentence of up to four years in prison.”
The bill was proposed as the state is seeing ballistic vests sales soar amid a surge in violent crime and shootings across the state.
New York Police Department statistics (pdf) show last year was the deadliest since 2011 with at least 447 homicides and 1,531 shooting incidents, a 41 percent increase in homicides over 2019.
According to a report by the New York Post last year, sales of body armor were up 80 percent in 2020 compared to 2019, Brad Pedell, a dealer in tactical attire and gear in New York City who runs 221B Tactical said.
“You wouldn’t believe the people who call up and say, ‘I’m scared,'” Pedell told the outlet, adding that most customers coming to his store are from the Bronx and Brooklyn, where shootings skyrocketed last year.