Civil Liberties

Only Police Should Have…Body Armor?

Why not ban strong locks on doors, while we're at it?


San Diego Shooter / Foter

Venturing down a line of legislative reasoning that apparently sees threats to the republic in convenience store clerks, security guards, globe-trotting journalists, and shopkeepers nervy enough to do business in troubled neighborhoods, Rep. Mike Honda (D-YouGottaBeKiddingMe) offers up HR 378, The Responsible Body Armor Possession Act. Yes, it is in fact a bill intended to limit people's ability to own gear that reduces injuries and death caused by bullets.

While the text of the bill isn't yet available, it looks like a rehash of legislation introduced last year that would ban "body armor, including a helmet or shield, the ballistic resistance of which meets or exceeds the ballistic performance of Type III armor, determined using National Institute of Justice Standard-0101.06."

In his press release, Rep. Honda insists:

This bill allows law enforcement to respond to active shooting situations more effectively. The bill prohibits the purchase, sale, or possession of military-grade body armor by anyone except certain authorized users, such as first-responders and law enforcement.

Uh huh. Police could also more effectively respond to all sorts of situations if they didn't have to fiddle with pesky locks or barred windows. And don't even get started on reinforced door frames and masonry walls.

Do you really need a brick house? Isn't it easier for law enforcement to blow a barrier down if honest people use straw?

Now, Type III armor isn't standard stuff, nor is it cheap. Designed to stop rifle rounds, it carries a pretty price tag and is cumbersome as hell. But police locks, alarm systems, and related security equipment are pricey and cumbersome, too. When I lived in New York City's East Village in the '90s, I could pretty much smoke a cigarette in the hall while waiting for some of my friends to unlock their apartment doors. But if you perceive some danger in your environment, you just might want some protection. Even if that protection incidentally makes it more difficult for police officers to kill you if they feel the need.

And whatever the motivation of the user, this stuff is defensive. The only way to hurt another person with body armor is to take it off and beat them with it.

Of course, Rep. Honda isn't satisfied with restricting body armor; he also want to ban gun components kits and require guns made on 3D printers, CNC machines and the like to have serial numbers. You didn't think he liked armed civilians better than he liked them armored did you?

The serial number bill has the singular characteristic of being completely unenforceable, targeting, as it does, DIY efforts increasingly intended to be beyond government's grasp.

None of these bills are likely to fare well in the new Republican-controlled House. Rep. Honda is posturing by introducing legislation intended to thrill his base by showing that he's "Continuing his promotion of the modern progressive agenda" (in his own words).

But what does it say about him and his perception of his supporters that he sees advantage in banning stuff meant to protect people from harm?

Just wait until he gets around to smoke alarms.