Manufacturers and retailers of body armor report an increase in sales due to increased protection from the recent spate mass shootings.
NPR spoke with representatives of four body armor sellers (National Body Armor and Spartan Armor Systems and UARM USA Corp.), who said that they had seen a rise in sales after recent mass shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo, Texas. However, they declined to give specific numbers.
These businesses believe that their customers want more security in a world that is becoming increasingly unsafe. David Reece (CEO of Armored Republic) said that parents felt especially strongly after the shooting at Robb Elementary school in Uvalde.
"You cannot control the evil actions of people. You can't also control the actions of lawmakers. He said that you can purchase your child an armor-encased backpack."
National Body Armor CEO Dave Goldberg said that his company saw a surge in sales after the massacre at a Buffalo grocery store.
He said, "We've been growing ever since." "We have most products in stock and ship same-day. It now takes four to six weeks to get them all."
Customers are purchasing items such as backpacks and covert bulletproof T shirts, as well as standard bulletproof vests in various strengths.
The trend of increasing body-armor sales is consistent with an increase in gun sales over the past few years. Gun sellers in the United States reported that gun sales were on the rise among first-time buyers.
Retailers also reported sales increases during the coronavirus epidemic, which occurred in summers when there were civil rights protests, police shootings, and other shootings.
There are very few restrictions on who can purchase body armor in the United States. Sellers say that although body armor is not allowed to be purchased by people convicted of violent felonies, regulatory enforcement is very lax.
Connecticut requires that body armor sales must be done in person. New York recently passed restrictions on the types and buyers of body armor. No state requires background checks or permits beyond that. Sellers state that buyers must be at least 18 years old.
NPR spoke to most of these companies only after they had been in business for a decade. Many early buyers were journalists or law enforcement officers, often working in hostile environments.
Buyers are more varied now.
According to many retailers, gun owners are their most frequent return customers. According to retailers, they purchase body armor as an accessory for their weapon. People who simply want to protect their bodies in daily life are also embracing body armor.
Goldberg stated that most people don't have body armor and want to feel safe if they are shot with a gun.
P.B. noted that members of far-right groups like the Proud Boys have worn bulletproof vests and tactical gear during protests for a long time. Gomez was the founder of Latino Rifle Association. His group is not affiliated to the National Rifle Association.
It's becoming more popular with leftist progressive people of colour aEUR people who want to defend themselves at protests where they might face off against far-right agitators. Gomez stated that they want that protection.
According to Wolf Milan (the company's business development manager), UARM's customer base is primarily made up of people who work night shifts in gas stations and liquor stores.
The U.S. headquarters of the company also sells tactical gear and armor to troops in Ukraine. It has been producing products in Ukraine since the beginning of 2018, Milan stated.
Goldberg stated that he has seen everyone in society looking for his covert bulletproof T shirts. These can be worn under clothing.
He said, "I would guess it's doctors and lawyers, Uber drivers or people who work in restaurants or any other place there's a risk." "We had a person get stabbed on a town golf course, and they got one."
UARM reports that sales in Ukraine have increased by roughly 150% in the past two years, excluding business done during the conflict with Russia. This is about two-and-a-half times the amount they were in 2019.
About half of the 2022 sales went to traditional customers, which would include veterans, gun enthusiasts, and people working in security or law enforcement. Half of all sales went to new customers. Milan stated that in 2021, the proportion of first-time buyers would be less than 30%.
Sales of Todd Meeks' Spartan Armor Systems tripled between 2019 and 2020. In 2021, sales fell by 25% from 2020. However, January to March 2021 was a busy time for us (due to the January 6 insurrection at U.S. Capitol).
Reece of Armored Republic reports that bulletproof backpack sales increased almost sixfold from April to May this year after the news about the shootings at Buffalo and Uvalde.
He believes that the short-term spike in activity will "decline very quickly."
According to The Violence Project, at least 21 mass shooters have been identified as having worn body armor in the past 40 years. Most of them were within the past decade. This is just one example.
The attacker, a white supremacist seeking to kill Black people, was wearing full body armor during the attack on the supermarket. The attacker tried to kill the store security guard, but he was stopped by his body armor which was strong enough for protection against rifle rounds. Aaron Salter was the guard who was shot and killed by the attacker.
New York State took action after learning that the gunman was wearing such strong body armor.
Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation in the wake the Buffalo shooting. It raised the minimum age for semiautomatic rifles to 21, and prohibited the sale to civilians of body vests. According to the law, only approved professions are allowed to purchase and use this type of protection. The law will not specify who is allowed to purchase these vests.
The Trace, a news site that covers gun violence reports that the type of armor used by the Buffalo gunman (hard armor plates to protect against rifle rounds), is not banned by this law. Soft body armor is not prohibited. It's easy to conceal and protects against small rounds.
Goldberg, National Body Armor, stated that his company does not sell products that are "military-grade" after the attack in Buffalo. He stated that all products sold by National Body Armor can be punctured with police bullets.
Goldberg stated that "we don't sell products the general public that have more value than the police have". "We are trying to sell professionals and do the right things to sell them. There are also people doing unsavory things."
New York's new law is not popular with other retailers and buyers.
Gomez, from the Latino Rifle Association agreed. A law such as this would put at greatest risk communities of color and people who are victims of police brutality. He said that they are looking for body armor to defend against police shootings and attacks during protests.
Reece claims that the body armor law is both unconstitutional and a "heavy handed act of a showboating legislative." He stated that Armored Republic plans to sue New York in federal court for this law.
"I believe evil people will do evil things. He said that it was very easy for people with bad intentions to bypass laws or bypass the intentions of sellers and manufacturers, and to find black market resource," he stated. "I believe that blocking access to tools is not a way to help people defend themselves against evil."