Debate Magazine

Should We Ban Ballistic Armor for Private Use? Bluster, Blubber and Bullshit from Gun-huggers

Posted on the 01 March 2013 by Doggone
James Holmes wore ballistic armor, from the top of his head, to the bottoms of his feet. Adam Lanza wore a bulletproof vest. Other shooters, other criminals have also been, increasingly, wearing bullet-stopping protection, making ANY shooter trying to stop them ineffectual, law enforcement or otherwise.
We need to ban this tactical gear, this bullet-proof body armor, from private civilian use to protect ourselves, and to protect law enforcement from mass shooters and other criminals.
From CNN:
Police said the shooter entered the sold-out movie theater dressed in black, wearing a ballistic helmet, a tactical ballistic vest, ballistic leggings, protectors over his throat and his groin, a gas mask and black tactical gloves.
And as reported by the Denver Post:
James Eagan Holmes, 24, bought a ticket to the show, "The Dark Knight Rises," then left theater 9, propping the emergency exit open for his return, investigators said. About 15 minutes into the film, he appeared beside the screen with three guns, dressed in black and wearing a ballistic helmet, gas mask and body shields.
And from the Daily Best, reporting on law enforcement testimony in court earlier this year (2013):
Police say Holmes, with his hair dyed red as a creepy homage to Batman’s Joker, was dressed in combat gear and armed with an assault rifle, a Glock pistol, a shotgun, and two canisters of what sources say was tear gas.
We see it in the photos, we have been told the information repeatedly by law enforcement, and we have documented the purchase of the equipment from the source.  There are bogus sources on the internet that try to deny this, but the authoritative sources are clear beyond any question. James Holmes was completely protected, in a way that most of the law enforcement responding was not.  In fact, when surrendering to law enforcement, James Holmes was at first MISTAKEN for a SWAT team officer.
The problem is, like assault style weapons and expanded capacity magazines, and certain kinds of especially damaging ammunition, these are not appropriate to private use. But we need to do so in a way that allows our armed forces members to add to the equipment supplied by the military which is apparently less effective.  The solution would appear to be to let distributors like the one who sold James Holmes the ballistic protective armor he was wearing sell this stuff ONLY through military outlets like the stores available to military personnel on bases, and then only to those deployed or who have received orders to deploy at a future time, for use exclusively in combat zones.
From CBS news and the AP:
CBS/AP/ July 24, 2012, 1:46 PM

James Holmes built up Aurora arsenal of bullets, ballistic gear through unregulated online market

(CBS/AP) DENVER - In a world where Amazon can track your next book purchase and you must show ID to buy some allergy medicine, James Holmes spent months stockpiling thousands of bullets and head-to-toe ballistic gear without raising any red flags with authorities.
The suspect in the mass theater shooting availed himself of an unregulated online marketplace that allows consumers to acquire some of the tools of modern warfare as if they were pieces of a new wardrobe. The Internet is awash in sites ranging from, which this weekend listed a sale on a thousand rifle rounds for $335, to eBay, where bidding on one armored special forces helmet has risen to $799....
Chad Weinman runs, which caters to police officers looking to augment their equipment, members of the military who don't want to wait on permission from the bureaucracy for new combat gear, and hobbyists like survivalists and paintballers. The site receives "thousands" of orders daily, sometimes from entire platoons that are about to deploy to war zones.
On July 2, Holmes placed a $306 order with the site for a combat vest, magazine holders and a knife, paying extra for expedited two-day shipping to his Aurora apartment. The order, Weinman said, didn't stand out.
"There's a whole range of consumers who have an appetite for these products, and 99.9 percent of them are law-abiding citizens," Weinman said. But he said that "it makes me sick" that Holmes bought material from him. He added that he doesn't sell guns or ammunition and that he was "shocked" at the amount of bullets that Holmes allegedly bought online.
U.S. News goes on to expand on the problem with military grade body armor as it relates to mass shootings; but it has also been a problem with shooters who are engaging in murder, or murder/suicides, and other crimes.  We've seen it used in crimes like bank robbery.:

The Other Loophole: Bulletproof Armor

State Police are on scene following a shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., about 60 miles (96 kilometers) northeast of New York City, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012.

State Police on scene following a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, 2012.

Both the Newtown and Aurora shooters wore armor that stops police bullets

December 20, 2012 RSS Feed Print
Adam Lanza wore a utility vest as he opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last Friday, killing 26 people—20 of them children under the age of 10. James Holmes, the alleged perpetrator of the Aurora, Col., theater massacre in July, wore an armor vest and a ballistic helmet.
"The people intent on committing these atrocities outfit themselves with the macabre tools of their trade ... and the defensive gear to ensure they do the most damage," says Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center. a D.C.-based gun control research organization.
Though body armor is typically worn by law enforcement or military, it is not difficult for people like Lanza or Holmes to obtain.
Multiple body armor companies refused to comment on record for this story, citing sensitivity to the Newtown shooting. But bulletproof vests, stab-proof vests and ballistic helmets can be easily found and bought online from companies like, or through local dealers of companies like Armor Express. Available products include both soft body armor, which is made out of woven fibers and can stop a bullet from a typical police handgun, as well as hard body armor plates, which is made of metal or ceramic and can stop rounds from a more powerful weapon like an AK-47.
Gun control advocacy groups like Sugarmann's say the body armor worn by the shooters in Newtown and Aurora undermines the argument made by gun advocates that shootings can be stopped by someone with a handgun. (my emphasis added - DG)
Slate did a couple of articles on the use of body armor by criminals, including other mass shooters, who have used ballistic armor to protect themselves from effective action by law enforcement, which effectively puts law enforcement at greater risk, confuses who is and who is not a criminal, and results in an effective arms race with criminals buying this gear privately..
Fifteen years ago, two bank robbers equipped with AK-47s, armor-piercing bullets, and 100-round clips fought off dozens of cops in North Hollywood, Calif. Both men wore Kevlar. One had a steel plate under his vest. The other had leg armor. Thirty-two officers returned fire. One later described hitting the robbers nine times without much effect. Eleven cops and six civilians were wounded in the 45-minute battle. After 27 shots to his limbs, buttocks, and neck, one robber finally went down. The other, after taking his 10th hit, killed himself. Bullets were later retrieved from their vests.
Three years ago, Jiverly Wong, an unemployed man angry at police, put on a ballistic vest, walked into an immigration center in Binghamton, N.Y., and shot 14 people to death. Then he took his own life, sparing police a firefight. The next day, Richard Poplawski, another cop-hater, girded himself in a vest—he called it his “suit for battle”—and ambushed police in Pittsburgh, Pa. The first cop at the scene died from a shot to the head. A second cop shot Poplawski in the chest but hit the vest, leaving only a bruise. That cost the officer his life. Poplawski gunned down him down, then blew away a third cop. Eventually, a sniper shot Poplawski’s assault rifle out of his hands. Again, a bullet was recovered from the vest.
As another Slate article further noted:

Armored and Dangerous

The scariest innovation in the Aurora mass shooting isn’t guns or ammo. It’s SWAT gear.

What distinguished Holmes wasn’t his offense. It was his defense. ...Holmes’ outfit blew these jokers away. He wore a ballistic helmet, a ballistic vest, ballistic leggings, a throat protector, a groin protector, and tactical gloves. He was so well equipped that if anyone in that theater had tried what the National Rifle Association recommends—drawing a firearm to stop the carnage—that person would have been dead meat. Holmes didn’t just kill a dozen people. He killed the NRA’s answer to gun violence.
That’s what Holmes figured out. Defense, not offense, is the next stage of the gun-violence arms race. Equipping citizens with concealed weapons doesn’t stop bad guys. It just pushes them to the next level. The next level is body armor. And unlike missile defense, which has proved to be complicated and disappointing, body armor is relatively simple.
What’s your answer to this technology? Armor-piercing bullets? Sorry. The NRA, in defense of these bullets, noted 12 years ago that “no law enforcement officer has ever been killed or even injured because an armor piercing bullet penetrated a bullet-resistant vest.” A well-prepared killer just needs the right vest. The key, according to the Justice Department’s site, is to buy “Type IV flexible armor,” which is certified to stop .30-caliber armor-piercing bullets fired at a velocity of 878 meters per second. The site offers contact information for 24 suppliers of Type IV armor and includes URLs for nine of them. I found the options somewhat overwhelming, so I went to, where it took me less than two minutes to find a Type IV plate for $200 and add it to my cart.
Do you want to restrict the sale of body armor? Good luck. In a country that won’t even maintain a ban on assault weapons, what are your chances of blocking access to products that save lives? With guns, as with nukes, it’s a lot harder to make a case against defensive technology than against offensive technology. That’s why not a single state prohibits the purchase of body armor, unless you’re a convicted felon. The toughest law I could find is in Connecticut, where you have to show up in person to complete the sale.
Except that is changing now, called the Connecticut effect; NOW people are willing to start restricting, banning, and documenting so as to stop these unreasonable products, to stop the violent abuses.
The only defense left the NRA and the gun-huggers is the three Bs: bluster, blubber, and bullshit. The power is on the side of the people who support gun control, ammo control, magazine control, and armor control.
The tipping point has been reached, the pendulum is swinging the other way on gun violence and the failed gun culture.

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