In response to a rise in mass shootings in which people wear bulletproof gear, state legislators in Marin this month introduced a bill banning most California residents from purchasing bulletproof vests.
Congressional Bill 92, Introduced by Damon Connolly, this law makes it a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 for someone to buy or sell body armor or clothing to people who are not employed in certain professions, such as law enforcement. Those who already own body armor are permitted to keep it, but are prohibited from reselling it.
This prohibition does not apply to law enforcement officers, firefighters, military personnel, security guards, firearms dealers, bulletproof vest salespeople, law enforcement officers, and medical first responders. The California Department of Justice is authorized to add other exempt occupations.
Additionally, the bill would make wearing a bulletproof vest while committing a violent felony involving a firearm a felony punishable by up to three years in prison.
Currently, California law only prohibits convicted felons from owning or purchasing bulletproof vests.
Connolly, a Democrat representing Marin and southern Sonoma counties, said his bill was modeled after legislation passed in New York last year following the Buffalo, New York, mass shooting. The shooter wore bulletproof armor that protected him and allowed him to kill the guards after they shot him.
“Speaking with North Bay community members during the campaign, this was an issue that came up several times,” Connolly wrote in an email. “Following the horrific shootings in Buffalo, New York last year, the state legislature passed restrictions on bulletproof vests to keep this military gear out of the hands of violent criminals.”
Connolly’s law was introduced before three recent mass shootings. Monterey Park, Half Moon Bay and the Central Valley in the past week. None of the suspects were reported wearing body armor in these incidents.
Mass shooting data collected by The Violence Project non-profit research organization shows an increase in the number of shooters wearing body armor in recent years. According to his data from 1966 to 2022, he has 21 mass shootings in the United States involving shooters wearing body armor, 15 of which have occurred since his 2010.
The law raises questions and concerns about limiting the means of self-defense for law-abiding residents at a time when mass shootings are becoming more commonplace in the United States.
Palo Alto-based Wonder Hoodies sells bulletproof hoodies, vests, backpack panels, and other items. Company founder Vy Tran started his business after his neighbor was shot dead in a robbery on his way home in Seattle.
“Our Wonder Hoodie founder designed bulletproof clothing for a mother and brother who felt they could not walk safely in their community after a neighborhood shooting,” said the company’s operations. Manager Matt Holland wrote in an email. “While I cannot comment on how this law will affect the number of mass shootings in the future, I do believe that access to wearable body armor, which we were trying to democratize, especially for non-violent civilians seeking self-defense, will continue to increase. Equipment or security?”
Connolly said he had heard similar concerns and would work to improve the bill as it passed through Congress.
“We have received a lot of good feedback from voters and colleagues regarding personal protection options, which we believe are valuable and justified,” he said. “It’s clear that there needs to be a balance between public safety and personal protection.”
Marin County Sheriff Jamie Scardina said the California Sheriff’s Association has yet to comment on the bill.
“I haven’t read it all and I think it’s a little early,” he wrote in an email.
For more information on Congressional Bill 92, please visit: bit.ly/3kI3JVQ.