Body Armor Helped the Buffalo Shooter Carry Out His Rampage. This Bill Could’ve Banned It

Body Armor Helped the Buffalo Shooter Carry Out His Rampage. This Bill Could’ve Banned It

A “good guy with a gun” tried to stop the massacre at Tops supermarket in Buffalo, but was foiled by the assailant’s bulletproof vest and helmet.

When an 18-year-old began his alleged white supremacist rampage Saturday afternoon, a security guard employed by the market, former policeman Aaron Salter, shot at the gunman — and even hit him. “Our retired officer, Salter… engaged the suspect, fired rounds,” Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said at a press conference Sunday. “We have evidence that he struck him at least one time and that unfortunately had no effect.”

Could restrictions on the kind of tactical armor worn by the gunman have made a difference? The New York legislature has been debating a ban on bulletproof body armor for years. In the current session, assembly bill A352 proposed banning “the purchase or possession of a body vest” by state residents. (A nearly identical bill in the previous legislative session stalled out in committee. The current bill is not faring any better, its current status is listed as “stricken.”)

At the federal level, Sen. Charles Schumer proposed body armor restrictions in 2019 in the wake of a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio. “Shockingly, with the click of a mouse … just about anyone can order-up the kind of advanced armor … we see used in wars or all-out law enforcement raids, and that is unacceptable and needs to change,” Schumer said at the time, calling for FBI regulation. (The Responsible Body Armor Possession Act did not become law.)

Such a body armor ban, had it been in effect, may have provided a level of deterrence to the gunman, who complained bitterly in his manifesto of the state’s “cucked” firearms restrictions and his inability to shop for a better rifle online. 

The 180-page document, believed to have been posted by the gunman in advance of his attack, veers from white supremacist and anti-semitic screeds into extended digressions about weapons, written, the shooter said, “for my fellow gear queers out there.” 

The gunman was meticulous in acquiring his tactical gear, and anticipated needing a bulletproof vest. “To minimize the chance of instant death,” he wrote, “body armor and ballistic helmet that will stop the intended threat will be needed.” 

The gunman had done his research. He wrote that the security personnel at the supermarket would be armed, and had procured body armor to defend himself against their weapons. “Top’s Market has 1 or 2 armed security guards with full size glocks,” he wrote. “[Body] armor will stop their ammunition.” (The manifesto added, darkly, that the guards would be his primary targets: “I will have to kill them first.”)

The shooter expected his armor would also protect against “police handgun threats” and “CCW carrier threats” — an apparent reference to civilians with concealed carry permits. “This is Buffalo after all so I am expecting some boys to be packing,” he wrote. In another nod to the state’s weapons restrictions, the shooter judged that he probably wouldn’t face semiautomatic rifle rounds. “This is on the unlikely side… because NY is cucked for civilian gun owners,” he wrote.

The assembly sponsor of the body armor bill, Democrat Jonathan Jacobson of the Hudson valley city of Newberg, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Jacobson is active in targeting illegal weapons trafficking and has procured funding for local gun buy-back programs

The 18-year-old gunman — who’s rampage killed 10 people — was obviously a determined law breaker. But he wrote in his manifesto repeatedly about his difficulty contending with the restrictions posed by New York’s restrictive weapons laws.

The gunman wrote that he bought a Bushmaster AR-15 from a firearms dealer in Endicott New York. (That dealer has acknowledged the sale.) “Since I live in New York, I had to buy a cucked version of this before illegally modifying it,” the gunman wrote. The weapon came with a fixed magazine, which the shooter describes using “my dad’s power drill” to unlock and replace with removable clips. “In all honesty this is probably the worst AR-15 I could’ve bought for this mission,” the gunman complained. “Since I live in cucked New York, and I am only 18, I can’t legally buy… a standard ‘assault rifle’ online.” 

The proposed state ban on body armor did not carry stiff penalties — and would only have made a first offense a misdemeanor. But it would have blocked an easy online or in-store purchases. It isn’t immediately clear where the gunman obtained his armor, but the manifesto, meant to inspire copycats, suggests myriad online sellers.

Gramaglia, the Buffalo police commissioner said that the gunman’s use of body armor created additional threats for his officers responding to the massacre. He suggested the officers had not handled the shooter with kid gloves, as some critics have alleged, but instead were fortunate that the suspect surrendered. 

“The shooting had stopped at that point. And the officers moved in very quickly to deescalate,” Gramaglia said Sunday. “Had the need come into play where they were forced to take deadly physical force, then they would’ve acted on that,” he insisted. “Keep in mind, he was heavily armed. He had metal plating, armor plating vests on,” Gramaglia said, “and that could have been a really bad situation.”

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