New York law still allows body armor used by Buffalo shooter


(NewsNation) — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul recently signed a law barring the sale of bullet-resistant vests to most civilians in New York — but it doesn’t cover the type of armor worn by the gunman who killed 10 people in a racist attack at a Buffalo supermarket.

This gap, critics argue, could limit the law’s effectiveness in deterring future military-style assaults.

Hochul signed 10 new bills concerning gun control on June 6, saying it was landmark legislation that will close any critical loopholes. This bill package included prohibiting the sale of semiautomatic weapons to people under 21, strengthening red flag laws and the body armor ban.

“I’m in a position of authority and power and influence and I have a moral responsibility to do something,” Hochul said.

The law restricts sales of vests defined as “bullet-resistant soft body armor.” These can be effective against pistol fire. Meanwhile, vests carrying steel, ceramic or polyethylene plates, which can potentially stop rifle rounds, aren’t explicitly covered by the legislation.

New York’s law restricts sales of soft bullet-resistant vests to people who work in law enforcement and the military, plus people in certain other professions that require protective gear. The list of what types of jobs qualify someone to buy armor, and which don’t, is still to be determined by state officials.

During the May 14 attack on the Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, where Payton Gendron, motivated by racial hatred, shot 11 Black people and two white people, Gendron was wearing a steel-plated bulletproof vest.

A security guard inside the store shot at the 18-year-old gunman, but the bullet fire from the guard’s handgun was no match for the shooter’s body armor.

Professor Warren Eller of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice said the fact that the law specifically outlaws “soft vests” is concerning.

Allowing the toughest armor to still be sold is “simply a mistake, it really is,” Eller said. The gap in New York’s law was first reported by The Trace, a nonprofit that covers gun violence, which also noted that the words “body armor” don’t appear in the bill, despite it being described as a “body armor” ban by Hochul and other lawmakers.

Hochul is aware of the need for changes, her office said.

“Governor Hochul was proud to sign the groundbreaking new law passed by the legislature to restrict sales of body armor, and will work with the legislature to expand the definitions in the law at the first available opportunity,” it said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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