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Is Body Armor Legal?

Body Armour
Body Armor

One of the big questions people have as far as items like bulletproof vests is whether or not body armor is legal. 

There’s often the misconception that owning something like a bulletproof vest isn’t legal if you aren’t in the military or a police officer. 

This isn’t necessarily the case. 

There are many people who, outside of wearing body armor as a civilian, may want to wear it for their profession, even if they aren’t police or military. For example, EMTs and security officers might want body armor for protection on the job but believe it’s illegal. 

The following are some things to know about body armor laws.

U.S. Legality

In some places in the world, there are restrictions on buying and possessing body armor, but for the most part, that’s not true in the U.S. 

With a few exceptions, it’s legal to buy and possess body armor in the U.S. 

In Connecticut, there is a restriction. You can only buy body armor in person. You can’t buy it online, by mail, or over the phone. 

New York is currently debating a ban on private citizens being able to buy body armor. 

In some states, including Kentucky, there are criminal penalties for wearing body armor or even having it if you’re committing a crime.

In Louisiana, you can’t wear body armor on school property. 

Some states, like Alabama, have restrictions on who can buy body armor such as a bulletproof vest. If you’re in Alabama, you can buy these items unless you’re been convicted of a felony. That’s actually pretty common across the country. Many states don’t let you buy body armor if you’re a convicted felon. 

In some states with restrictions on felons buying body armor, there are exceptions. 

For example, you may be able to buy it if you have written documentation indicating the body armor for your job. 

There are some companies and manufacturers that only sell body armor to law enforcement. That’s a preference—it’s not due to a law in most cases. 

Some People Worry They’ll Be Seen as a Criminal

Even when people realize their state laws don’t prohibit them from buying or possessing body armor, they still don’t purchase it because they worry that it makes them look like criminals. There’s a misconception that only criminals need something like a bulletproof vest, which doesn’t reflect the reality. 

For example, neighborhood watch volunteers often want to wear body armor. 

If you work security, particularly somewhere like a hospital, you might also want to purchase body armor. 

Other Legal Issues Related to Body Armor

Again, while body armor isn’t illegal, that doesn’t mean states don’t regulate it. 

For example, several states will use body armor as a sentence enhancement, but this means you have to commit an underlying crime. 

For example, if someone is committing a crime and they’re wearing body armor in California, the judge could potentially add anywhere from one to three years. A state could also elevate a crime to a felony because of body armor. 

Kentucky has a law that makes the use of body armor while committing a crime something that can make you ineligible for parole. 

If you use body armor with a weapon in any offense, then that can be a crime in and of itself. 

In some states, if you possess body armor during a crime, which means you’re not even wearing it, that can be considered a criminal act. 

Also, above was touched on the concept that some states don’t let felons buy body armor. However, some states also extend this to misdemeanors. 

The Takeaway

There are a lot of legitimate reasons that a law-abiding citizen might want to purchase body armor for their personal safety. As we see violent crime rise in many parts of the country this can make even more sense. 

Most regulations and laws around the wearing and possession of body armor are very reasonable, and by and large, it is legal to both have it and wear it. 

The exception to this would be if you have a criminal history or commit a crime, which of course is an unlikely reason you might want to purchase body armor. In these instances, it could be illegal. 

Always check with the laws in your state to make sure you’re following them if you’re thinking about buying something like a bulletproof vest. 


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