Before Orlando shooter Omar Mateen went on a shooting spree at The Pulse nightclub, he went shopping at a gun store to purchase body armor that could stop police handgun rounds. Luckily, they didn’t sell body armor.
However, if he’d gone online, he could easily purchase the armor that would stop handgun fire along with SWAT team sniper bullets and armor-piercing rifle ammunition. It could have been shipped to his door, no questions asked and no background check being done.
If Body Armor Products Were Regulated, Would It Cut Down On Mass Shootings
The Orlando mass shooting, which left 49 people dead not including the shooter, sparked repeated calls for an assault weapons ban and various efforts to make it difficult for people to purchase certain types of guns. However, body armor purchases tend to be unregulated.
The worry manufacturers and law enforcement officials have is that bulletproof equipment will be used by more and more criminals.
Cory Salzillo, California State Sheriff’s Association legislative director, said there are no real reasons civilians would need a military-style body armor. There’s no situation that demands civilians use the military-grade equipment.
A U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokesman said there is just one federal regulation regarding body armor and civilians: no felon may be in the possession or buy body armor or guns. At this point, there is nothing in place to stop a point of sale. Connecticut is the only U.S. state that demands sales be made in person, not online or by mail.
Mateen attempted to purchase body armor and bulk ammunition from Jensen Beach’s Lotus Gunworks. The store used to carry armor but quit selling several years before. And, since Mateen came across as suspicious, the store opted not to sell him any ammunition.
Several years ago, body armor was thought of as a niche product, difficult to attain if you weren’t in a professional circle. However, small manufacturers and suppliers have inundated the market to sell it to doomsday preppers, gun enthusiasts and to folks who feel the government is going to collapse and make them defend themselves.
The federal government and local departments don’t keep many statistics about body armor, and knowing the exact sales number for the product is hard to get due to the unregulated market. Researchers from the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center did a study and found five percent of 110 active shooters from 2000 to 2012 had worn body armor.
Jeremy Tepper, a Marine Corps veteran, is an online armor supplier and began Target Man. While he no longer owns the company, he demanded people that purchased equipment from the website had to show proof that they had no felony conviction.
He said when something is bought off the website, all people have to do is check a box. That doesn’t mean anything, Tepper said, since anyone can lie.
Who Does BulletSafe Cater To?
BulletSafe owners Tom Nardone said his website saw a huge increase in traffic the day after the shooting in Orlando. He said the bulletproof vests are geared toward security guards that may face people like Mateen.
Nardone got into the body armor market after he saw people’s interest, mainly due to a federal program that would split the vests cost with law enforcement. Nardone said basic vests have a starting cost of $1,000, which is why he started selling Chinese-manufactured vests for $299. The products were geared toward emergency medical technicians, fire departments and security guards, etc.
Nardone said safety equipment should be available freely. He said BulletSafe sells approximately 700 vests per months to civilians, dog catchers, and fire department personnel. He said he doesn’t do background checks since they’re required for firearms.
40 animal-control officers in El Paso, Texas were provided with BulletSafe vests, which they wear when they go to police officers for arrests. City spokesman Ramon Herrera said the department was concerned about the low price since the city has no access to federal funding, meaning officers may not have the protection they need.
He said it was fortunate the city was able to get each vest for $300.
Many well-known manufacturers feel body armor shouldn’t be sold to civilians. Michael Foreman, Point Black Enterprises, Inc. executive vice president, said his company has a deep obligation to ensure the equipment bought from their company is used in a crime. His company is a large supplier for licensed professionals, law enforcement, and the military.
Safariland LLC is a well-known vest manufacturer for law enforcement and doesn’t sell their products to civilians. Buyers must show credentials that they are in some type of law enforcement career.
In 2014, Calif. Dem. Rep. Mike Honda introduced a bill that would ban certain types of body armor such as helmets and shields. There were no restrictions on bulletproof vests. The bill didn’t pass and was reintroduced in 2015. It’s still in committee. Honda said every second counts when it comes to active shooter situations. He said, as of right now, there’s been no restrictions or attention on body armor.
Infidel Body Armor owner Chad Cooper said the body armor he sells is mainly to preppers. He said if a bill were to pass regarding body armor, it would hurt his business. Cooper said he doesn’t think it’ll pass.