New NY body vest law, touted by Hochul, barely bulletproof

Gov. Kathy Hochul has faced a barrage of criticism after boasting about a new state gun law that restricts body vests — which doesn’t include the protective armor worn weeks ago by a teenage white supremacist involved in the massacre of black shoppers in was arrested at a convenience store in Buffalo.

“Thoughts and prayers won’t fix this, but strong action will,” Hochul said June 6 as he signed a 10-sham weapons package touted as a direct response to mass shootings in Buffalo and Texas.

One of the new laws signed by the governor earlier this month restricts the sale of so-called body vests, which use interwoven fibers to block some low-power ammunition rounds. But the law doesn’t do anything about bulletproof Kevlar and steel-coated armor — a fact first highlighted in an AP report Monday.

During the May 14 attack, Payton Gendron wore a steel-coated vest, armor strong enough to deflect a handgun fired by a store guard who was trying to stop his killing spree, the AP reported.

But the law, hastily enacted by Hochul and state lawmakers after the attack, restricts the sale of vests, which are defined as “bulletproof soft body armor.”

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks during a bill signing ceremony that will pass a package of gun control bills in the borough of The Bronx in New York City, the United States, June 6, 2022.
Gov. Kathy Hochul recently signed legislation restricting body vests, but not the kind worn by the teenage white supremacist arrested in the Buffalo mass shooting.
REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Soft vests, which are lightweight and can be concealed under clothing, can be effective against pistol fire. Vests with steel, ceramic, or polyethylene panels potentially capable of stopping rifle bullets are not specifically covered by the legislation.

Republican Party leader Nick Langworthy likened the legislation to a disgraced ex-government. Andrew Cuomo might have installed himself as governor before Hochul took over after resigning last August.

“This is straight out of the Cuomo playbook — rushing through meaningless legislation to get a headline without doing anything to actually solve problems. Reason 10,000 why we need new leadership in New York,” Langworthy, who is currently running for Congress, said in a statement Monday.

Payton Gendron takes a selfie with a body vest.
Payton Gendron wore a steel-coated vest in his alleged May 14 attack on supermarket shoppers in Buffalo.

The governor is also feeling the heat of Democratic rival Tom Suozzi, who accused her of prioritizing politics over substance ahead of the June 28 gubernatorial primary.

“Hochul’s political response to a serious political issue has once again put New Yorkers at risk,” Suozzi said in a statement.

A Hochul spokeswoman did not comment as of the time of publication.

A man is arrested after a mass shooting in the parking lot of TOPS supermarket, in a still from social media video, in Buffalo, New York, U.S., May 14, 2022
Gendron’s vest was reportedly strong enough to deflect a handgun fired by a store guard who was trying to stop his killing spree.
BigDawg via REUTERS

Suozzi has joined Republicans who have been targeting Hochul for months over bail reform changes that they argue, by and large, do not go far enough to stem a continuing spate of gun crimes.

According to John Jay College Associate Professor Warren Eller, the governors’ efforts on guns are “pretty well thought out” in highlighting a number of factors including the pandemic, online extremism and the influx of illegal guns from other states.

Even if the governor and state legislature were to extend the new body vest law, which a recent poll found supports 58% of registered voters, to armor like the one in Buffalo, Eller believes it would likely make little difference , to prevent future deaths in mass shootings.

“We didn’t have that many shootings – mass shootings or otherwise – that also involved body armor. And in most cases where some form of body armor was present, the perpetrator surrendered immediately after the confrontation anyway,” said Eller, chairman of John Jay’s Department of Public Administration.

“But after something like Buffalo … One of the things that politicians have to do is they have to do something,” he added.

And the new law has left some retailers confused about what they can and can’t sell – and lawmakers are talking about a possible solution.

“I know you said soft vests, but what about hard armor plates, plate carriers, or armor that is not vests but clothing that offers protection. Is that also forbidden? It’s so vague,” Brad Pedell, who runs 221B Tactical, a tactical gear and body armor store in New York City, told the AP. He said his shop tends to sell more hard-coated armor than the banned soft ones.

“I’m not convinced that this legislation makes much sense,” Warren Eller, a public policy professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told the news service.

– with Associated Press New NY body vest law, touted by Hochul, barely bulletproof


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