We understand the urgency under which the state Legislature and Gov. Kathy Hochul passed a package of laws designed to address gun violence.
The racially inspired mass murder of 10 people at the Tops supermarket in our own city of Buffalo and the mass murder a few days later of 19 elementary school children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, both struck deep into our hearts.
Give state lawmakers credit for acting quickly in the face of those killings to possibly head off the next mass shooting by banning the sale or possession of semi-automatic weapons to those under 21 (the Buffalo and Uvalde killers were both 18.), requiring state and local law enforcement agencies to share gun crime information with federal databases, expanding the ability of officials to file Extreme Risk Protection Orders to keep guns out of the hands of potential mass murderers, and setting policies for social media to respond to threats made by potential shooters online.
The only part of that package we question is the bill (A10497/S9407B) that prohibits the sale or possession of body armor to anyone not working in a specific profession such as law enforcement, corrections, private security or emergency services.
The bill text specifically notes that the Buffalo killer was wearing such protection, helping protect him from an anticipated encounter with the store security guard.
Preventing killers from obtaining their weapons of mass murder and identifying them before they can go on a spree is one thing. But depriving ordinary citizens of basic defensive protection is another.
The text of the bill says that “Other than these professionals, no others have a legitimate reason to purchase or own a bullet-proof vest.” That’s simply not true.
Would a school teacher not have a legitimate reason to purchase or own a bullet-proof vest?
Or the people who sit at the entrances to schools and businesses?
What about a bouncer at a bar or a doorman at a hotel, or a taxi driver or ride-sharing driver or a bus driver or an airline pilot? Are they not subject to armed robberies and hijack attempts? How about the employees who aren’t stationed at the front door, like bank tellers, cashiers or store managers?
What about a domestic violence victim fearful of a violent spouse or ex-boyfriend?
Or how about the ordinary citizen who just wants to feel safe walking down the street?
Another issue this bill raises is that it feeds into the narrative by those strictly opposed to any gun-control measures that once given the opportunity, the anti-gun advocates will stop at nothing to remove everyone’s ability to protect themselves, making us all sitting ducks for mass murderers.
The governor signed the bill on Monday, but it doesn’t take effect for 60 days. She should use that time reconsider or amend this particular law.
People of sound mind and good character with no history of violence or threatening behavior should be able to register and purchase bullet-proof vests.
Preventing another mass shooting is one thing. Keeping people from passively protecting themselves from harm is another.