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New York's new law on body armor would not apply to Buffalo shooter's vest

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New York’s new law prohibiting the sale of bullet-resistant vests to most civilians does not apply to the body armor worn by the man who fatally shot 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo last month.

Payton Gendron wore a steel-plated vest during the killings on May 14. The armor protected him from a store security guard who fired a handgun round in an effort to stop the attack.

A crowd gathers as police investigate after a shooting at a supermarket on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y.

A crowd gathers as police investigate after a shooting at a supermarket on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y.
(AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)

A law hastily enacted by state lawmakers following the shooting bans sales of “bullet-resistant soft body armor.”

Soft vests are light, can be concealed underneath clothing and are protective against pistols. 

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Vests carrying steel, ceramic or polyethylene plates are not outlined in the new law. This type of armor can potentially stop rifle rounds.

“I’m not convinced that this legislation is very meaningful,” Warren Eller, a public policy professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said.

Democratic assemblyman Jonathon Jacobson, a lead sponsor of the bill, said he would “be glad to amend the law to make it even stronger.”

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is planning to work on further body armor restrictions.

“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,” her office said.

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Payton Gendron appears during his arraignment in Buffalo City Court, Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. Gendron was arraigned on first-degree murder charges and ordered detained without bail. Police officials said the 18-year-old was wearing body armor and military-style clothing when he pulled up and opened fire at people at a Tops Friendly Market. 

Payton Gendron appears during his arraignment in Buffalo City Court, Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. Gendron was arraigned on first-degree murder charges and ordered detained without bail. Police officials said the 18-year-old was wearing body armor and military-style clothing when he pulled up and opened fire at people at a Tops Friendly Market. 
(Mark Mulville/The Buffalo News via AP)

Brad Pedell, who runs tactical gear and body armor store 221B Tactical in New York City, said his customers purchase armor to protect themselves from potential attackers.

“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,” he 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.”

New York’s law was passed in an effort to prevent criminals from having an advantage over peace officers or security guards who try to stop a shooter.

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New York Gov. Kathy Hochul debates in the race for governor at the studios of WNBC4-TV June 16, 2022 in New York City. 

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul debates in the race for governor at the studios of WNBC4-TV June 16, 2022 in New York City. 
(Photo by Craig Ruttle-Pool/Getty Images)

The law restricts sales of soft bullet-resistant vests to people who work in law enforcement and the military, and people in some other professions that require protective equipment. State officials have yet to determine which jobs qualify a person to purchase armor.

New York residents are still allowed to own body vests and buy them in other states. Jacobson said he hopes to eliminate that workaround during the next Legislative session.

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“We wanted to get things done as quickly as possible, and not let the perfect get in the way of the good,” Jacobson said. “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 Associated Press contributed to this report.

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