Push for Gun Control in Pennsylvania Expands to Body-Armor Control

A bill proposed last week by State Representative Tim Briggs (D-King of Prussia) would bar civilians from buying or possessing body armor in Pennsylvania. 

His legislation follows efforts on the federal level and in other states to prohibit civilians from acquiring protective shields. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called for a body-armor ban in 2019 after a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio. The New York State Assembly has considered enacting state-level restrictions over the last few sessions, but a bill to do so has stalled.

The possibility of Pennsylvania adopting such a policy seems even more remote. Its legislature, unlike the Empire State’s, is controlled by Republicans who have resisted prohibitions on anti-gun laws and have expressed no interest in banning protective equipment. When a ban on semiautomatic weapons came up for a vote last week, it failed decisively and received almost no GOP support.

In a memorandum on his bill, Briggs observed that perpetrators of America’s two most recent mass shootings wore body armor while attacking. He noted that a retired police officer shot at the white supremacist who killed 10 African-Americans at a Tops Friendly Markets store in Buffalo, but the shooter was wearing a body shield and continued to shoot. 

Briggs also cited the carrier vest that the Uvalde, Texas, attacker wore as a possible reason why police could not subdue him quickly. The representative’s memo said “law enforcement responded almost immediately but could not protect the children in their fourth-grade classroom from the power of a military assault rifle wielded by a mass murder [sic] wearing body armor.

Days after Briggs circulated his memo, news came to light that the police response was not immediate and that numerous officers, while gathered at a school hallway, apparently hesitated for several minutes to enter a classroom into which a shooter had gone. 

The lawmaker mentioned that body-armor bans exist in Connecticut, Australia, and the European Union, and that federal law bars felons from possessing bulletproof vests. 

“Unfortunately, we are at a point in the General Assembly where the majority is not capable of providing the leadership needed to address the seriousness of gun violence through common-sense firearm regulation,” Briggs stated. “The majority has stonewalled any reasonable firearm reforms, prefers moments of silence, thought and prayers, and misappropriates blame on mental health issues that have been historically underfunded by them. We are at an inflection point where we either become part of the solution or we have blood on our hands.”

Should the representative’s measure become law, those who own body armor will have 15 days to surrender it to a law-enforcement office or they will be charged with a felony.

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].

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