New York Democrats already looking to revise just-passed ban on body armor

(Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune via AP)

New York Democrats have a history of acting before they think, especially when it comes to guns and gun control measures. In 2013 lawmakers rammed the SAFE Act through the legislature, only to find that many of the elements of the gun control legislation were completely unworkable in practice. The ban on magazines that can hold more than seven rounds, for instance, ultimately had to be changed to allow for gun owners to use ten-round magazines, though they’re only allowed to load seven rounds of ammunition (a law that’s impossible to proactively enforce). The SAFE Act was also supposed to require background checks on all ammunition sales, though nearly a decade after its passage that element of the law has yet to go into effect.

New York lawmakers similarly rushed through a package of nearly a dozen new measures after the recent targeted attack on a Buffalo grocery store, including a new ban on the purchase of some types of body armor. Supposedly the new law is meant to prevent mass killers from protecting themselves against returning fire from police, but as some critics have pointed out, the type of body armor worn by the suspect in the Buffalo shooting isn’t actually covered by the new law.

A law hastily enacted by state lawmakers after the attack restricts sales of vests defined as “bullet-resistant soft body armor.”

Soft vests, which are light and can be concealed beneath clothing, can be effective against pistol fire. Vests carrying steel, ceramic or polyethylene plates, which can potentially stop rifle rounds, aren’t explicitly covered by the legislation.

That has left some retailers confused about what they can and can’t sell — and lawmakers talking about a possible fix.

“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,” said Brad Pedell, who runs 221B Tactical, a tactical gear and body armor store in New York City. He said his store tends to sell more hard-plated armor than the soft type being banned.

… Pedell says many customers at his New York City store buy the armor for their own protection.

“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,” Pedell 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.”

Yeah, well, this is what happens when lawmakers are so intent on “doing something” in response to a shooting that they don’t think about the unintended consequences of their own actions. The suspected killer in Buffalo was wearing body armor? Well then, better ban it. Never mind the fact that ban will impact law-abiding citizens who want to protect themselves far more than it will thwart criminals from wearing body armor; there is virtue to be signaled here. And rather than recognizing the errors of their ways, supporters of the new ban say they’re ready to “fix” it if necessary.

Assemblymember Jonathon Jacobson, a lead sponsor of the legislation, told The Associated Press he would “be glad to amend the law to make it even stronger.”

… New Yorkers are still allowed to own body vests and purchase them in other states, though Jacobson, a Democrat, said he would work to eliminate that option during the next Legislative session in January.

“We wanted to get things done as quickly as possible, and not let the perfect get in the way of the good,” said Jacobson. “Like all laws in New York State, we always try to make them better in the future. Of course we’ll try to make this law better.”

The only way to do that would be to scrap this law entirely, which isn’t going to happen as long as Democrats have a majority in the statehouse in Albany.

Of course, there’s also the distinct possibility that this body armor ban will be challenged in court, and we could see some unlikely allies emerge in that respect. The New York City chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists was among those urging New York Gov. Kathy Hochul to veto the legislation, which they say could make it nearly impossible for press outlets to purchase body armor for reporters covering war zones overseas or civil unrest and rioting here at home. I’d love to see that organization and others sue the state over its ban on body armor; the latest iteration of the Democrats’ anti-public safety ideology that offers the empty promise of state-provided security at the expense of your own right of self-defense.