At the end of July, United States Representative Mike Honda (D-CA) introduced H.R. 5344, the "Responsible Body Armor Possession Act." Hmm . . . is he saying that in a dangerous world, it's irresponsible to be without body armor, so he wants to mandate its possession? That would be awfully heavy on the nanny state paternalism (and obviously not within the purview of any Constitutionally delegated power of the federal government), but one could perhaps argue that it's at least well intended.
That, though, is not at all what he has in mind. His idea of keeping the possession of body armor "responsible" is to restrict that possession to only the government's hired muscle. From the Contra Costa Times:
Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, today announced legislation that would block civilians from accessing military-grade body armor to prevent criminals from using them in gun battles with law enforcement.
Honda, speaking at a news conference in San Jose this morning with police chiefs and the district attorneys and sheriffs from Santa Clara and Alameda counties, said his proposal would discourage criminals from wearing enhanced body armor to commit mass shootings.
"This bill will keep military body armor out of the wrong hands," Honda said. "It would ensure that only law enforcement, firefighters and other first responders would be able to access enhanced body armor."
Okay, so it's not all body armor he intends to ban--only that which is "military grade." Honda explains:
"We're not talking about just a standard bullet-proof vest," he said. "We're talking about body armor that is designed for warfare, designed to protect against law enforcement ammunitions [sic]."
That's pretty much a word-for-word carbon copy of the language demonizing private possession of so-called "assault weapons," as "weapons of war," prompting National Gun Rights Examiner David Codrea to coin the term "assault armor." One question though: how often is the military called on to fight against law enforcement personnel?
But how are we to apply this brand new distinction of "military-grade," or "enhanced" body armor, from the regular stuff that even us lowly peons could still own under Honda's proposed law? According to the text of the bill, "military-grade" body armor is that which has been classified by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) body armor standards as Type III or higher, presumably leaving Type IIIA and lesser armor legal. In a very general sense, that's the dividing line between "soft" body armor, that can be worn under clothing, and can be counted on to stop most handgun rounds (but not most centerfire rifle rounds); and rigid body armor, which can stop many rifle rounds.
That ban would apply, then, to many of the bullet-resistant backpacks sold for use by school children. Suddenly, it's apparently time to stop exploiting the murdered children of Sandy Hook Elementary, and forget about them instead.
So why, again, is it necessary to mandate that private citizens be penetrated by any rifle round that comes their way? How, exactly, does that make society safer? His press release explains:
“There is no reason this type of armor, which is designed for warfare, should be available in our communities except for those who need it, like law enforcement,” Congressman Honda said. “There’s nothing more dangerous than what a well-armored, unstoppable active shooter can do. This bill is common-sense and long overdue.”
A self-proclaimed "gun violence" prevention group, the Violence Policy Center, is enthusiastically on board with Honda's endeavor to ensure that greater violence can be inflicted with rifles:
Mass shooters should not be able to purchase and wear body armor that was designed for the military and police. Criminals who wear enhanced body armor embolden themselves and put law enforcement in greater danger. Congressman Honda should be applauded for this legislation that will help protect the safety of first responders as well as the general public.
So are law enforcement personnel (and firefighters?) the "Only Ones" who might be shot with rifles, and who thus might benefit from protection from rifle fire? Clearly not, although the number of people, in and out of law enforcement, shot in the U.S. with rifles is quite low.
Still, Honda is well aware that rifles are sometimes used in violent crime (and not only against cops and firefighters), as evidenced by his co-sponsorship of legislation to ban so-called "assault weapons." He is also concerned enough about the possibility of handgun ammunition capable of penetrating armor once thought vulnerable only to rifle fire, to co-sponsor legislation that would empower the Attorney General to invent his own standards of what qualifies as "armor piercing" handgun ammo, and thus ban its possession (again, by everyone but the government's hired muscle).
According to the U.S. News and Daily Report, his response to private citizens' concerns that they might be shot with rounds that can penetrate soft body armor is . . . a shrug:
Honda says civilians don’t need the items for protection. If a neighborhood is frequented by trigger-happy criminals, he says, “we should have more cops on the street.”
He actually comes out and says that he is opposed to people being less vulnerable:
It’s about body armor and other accessories that would make a person less vulnerable to ammunition or bullets.
His bill, by the way, generously allows anyone who already possesses "military-grade" armor to keep it, but he doesn't seem very happy about that concession:
The ban would not apply to body armor already in private hands, but Honda says law enforcement might want to encourage people to turn in the items anyhow. “If there are records of sales [law enforcement] could track those down,” he says.
What kind of "encouragement" the cops would offer is left unclear, but judging from the fact that his "solutions" to violent crime all center on a) making certain that cops are better armed and armored than private citizens, b) that there are more cops, and c) that the police have access to records of private purchases of things he doesn't think private citizens should own; it seems unlikely that he would insist that this "encouragement" be particularly gentle.
One should probably not hold one's breath waiting for him to explain what to do when the mass shooter with a rifle is himself an "Only One."
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