Why are bulletproof vests illegal in many countries?
I read this on the Wikipedia page for bulletproof vests:
In European Union import and sale of ballistic vests and body armor are allowed in Europe, except protections that are developed under strict military specifications and/or for main military usage, shield above the level of protection NIJ 4, thus considered by the law as "armament materials" and forbidden to civilians.
In Australia, it is illegal to import body armour without prior authorisation from Australian Customs and Border Protection Service. It is also illegal to possess body armour without authorization in South Australia, Victoria, Northern Territory, ACT, Queensland & New South Wales.
I understand that it can make sense to make carrying a bulletproof vest illegal when you are carrying a gun. However I don't understand the reasoning behind why it is illegal to wear certain types of bulletproof vests when you do not have any weapons on you. Is a bulletproof vest seen as a weapon? And if so, how? Are there any specific cases where these laws makes sense? What are the reasons for passing these laws?
@SdaliM Law.SE is the place to answer *if* bulletproof vests are illegal in a certain jurisdiction. Why would be off-topic there, as it is a political question.
There is not a general need for the public to own or use those. Usually people who are at danger have legal ways to get one.
Bulletproof vests are heavy and cumbersone, even people who legally have access to them only uses them when there is a reason to do so. In most of the USA bulletproof vests are legal yet -despite some weird claims- most of the people do not use them.
OTOH, criminals1 have the advantage that they often know beforehand when they are going to commit a crime and if they anticipate the need for bullet protection.
The combination of guns with bulletproofs vests causes considerable trouble to law enforcement agencies. They not only allow criminals to stand for more time during a shootout, but may give criminals the idea that they might survive such a shootout and incite them to refuse to surrender.
While it may seem reasonable to make a vest legal only if the owner also carries a weapon, this kind of regulation does not provide any benefit2. Someone who got a vest with the intent of using it in a criminal enterprise would just avoid wearing it before he is ready to commit the crime. There are no police checks in every corner in Europe to detect when Joe is putting in his vest and also is carrying a gun; the first warning sign would be shots being fired.
1Note that I do not mean one of those apocalyptic scenarios (so common in some narratives coming from the USA) of millions and millions of criminals/terrorists/inept cops wanting to shoot innocent people at each street corner. Most criminals try to get their objectives while avoiding confrontation, and even those who assault their victims have a high chance of surrendering before getting in a full shootout with police force.
I mean the more common and realistic scenario where the criminals that would consider using bulletproof vests because they are ready for a shootout are a tiny minority. But, few as they are, those are the only public who would effectively benefit from the availability of the vests (because, as stated above, they are the ones who know when they will need the vests).
2I found this link explaining that in NY using a bulletproof vest for committing a crime is a crime, which I found utterly amusing. I cannot help but think about some people who happens to be ready to commit a crime and prepares for the possibility of a shootout (possibly with the police), but is deterred from using a bulletproof vest because that would be a crime.
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Can you provide any evidence that policymakers in the European Union specifically made bulletproof vests illegal for these reasons? Or that policy makers in general use these reasons? If not, this is pure speculation.
Though on the surface, making committing a crime while wearing a vest a crime seems redundant, it is similar to the "use a gun, go to prison" campaign. What it means is that if you are wearing a vest during the commission of a crime, you have this, now felony, charge added to the list of charges. This could easily turn a misdemeanor crime into a felony, and also turn a community service in lieu of time served sentence into a 5 year+ stint in prison. Quite a reasonable deterrent after all.
@SJuan "despite some weird claims- most of the people do not use them" - after leaving the US Army I spent 2 years doing high level security for a DOD contractor. Although we were encouraged to wear body armor, I rarely did because it's cumbersome. That was in the middle 90s & the newer technology is better, but it's not like wearing a layer of regular clothing.
I think this restriction is also related to the following:
can be seen as weapon accessories - although you cannot hurt anyone with a bulletproof vest, it is certainly related to weapons usage. This may be linked to the EU wanting to strengthen firearms, as mentioned here
not really justified - number of murders by shooting within European Union is quite small (about 1,000 homicides per year at about 700M population, as opposed to about 11,000 in USA at about 300M population. So, there is small justification for need of such items
"dumb factor" - some people may think about testing them, thus resulting in injuries or death
These numbers are incorrect. 30k people die from gunshots in the US, but this is not the same as saying 30k people are *murdered* with guns - that majority of that 30k killed by gunshot are suicides (kind of silly to think about bullet-proof vests for a suicide). Additionally, the number of *deaths* should not be the relevant count anyway, as we should be concerned with the number *shot* (many shooting victims survive the event but still would have been better off had they been wearing armor).
Can you provide any evidence that policymakers in the European Union specifically made bulletproof vests illegal for the reasons you gave? Or that policy makers in general use these reasons? If not, this is just speculation.
@Alexei "dumb factor" - so you think that it's the government's job to protect people from their own stupidity?
@Aporter - no really, but usage instructions on some products makes me feel it has already doing so a long time ago.