As half the country pleads for stricter gun laws and the other half touts their right to bear arms, an eerie trend has slowly been creeping in. Manufacturers and retailers of body armor are experiencing increased sales as everyday Americans seek out added protection following the recent spate of mass shootings.
In an interview with NPR, spokespeople for different sellers (National Body Armor, Spartan Armor Systems, Armored Republic, and UARM USA Corp) said body armor sales spiked following the tragic events in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York. While they declined to provide specific numbers, these businesses believe their customers are looking for more protection in a world that has started to feel increasingly unsafe.
Parents especially have felt like they need to do something, David Reece, the CEO of Armored Republic told the publication. “You can’t control what evil people do. And you can’t control what lawmakers do. But you can buy your child a backpack with armor in it,” he said, referring to the shooting at Robb Elementary School. Meanwhile, Dave Goldberg, the CEO of National Body Armor, said his company also experienced a boost in sales after the mass shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo.
“We’ve been increasing ever since,” he said of the body armor sales. He added that his stores went from having the most products in stock to shipping the same day. New orders now take four to six weeks to complete due to increased demand. For the most part, customers are purchasing gear like covert bulletproof T-shirts and backpacks. They are also in the market for standard bulletproof vests of various strengths.
According to NPR, the overall trend in increased body armor sales tracks with a rise in gun sales in the past few years. In April 2021, gun sellers across the United States reported that first-time gun buyers were causing a surge in sales. Interestingly, retailers have also reported an increase in sales throughout the Covid-19 pandemic which overlapped with summers of civil rights protests, police shootings, and several other violent incidents involving guns.
Messages about who can buy this type of tactical gear have been mixed in recent weeks, as some lawmakers grapple with issues like accessibility for would-be shooters. In New York, Governor Kathy Hochul signed a package of gun reform legislation that will increase the age to buy a rifle to 21, and limit the sale of body armor to specific professions. But restrictions on overall body armor sales are still few and far between.
People convicted of a violent felony are banned from purchasing body armor, but regulatory enforcement of that law is very lenient, according to sellers. Connecticut requires body armor sales to take place in person. Beyond that, no states require any kind of background check or permit, but sellers still require buyers to be at least 18 years old. Most of the companies that spoke with NPR, said their buyer demographic used to consist of law enforcement officers or journalists working in hostile environments. But customers are much more diverse now.
Gun owners are the most common returning customer in body armor sales, purchasing the gear as an accessory for their weapon. But sadly, there is a growing trend among people who just want a shield to wear in everyday life. “Most people haven’t worn body armor before, and they just want to be able to wear something and feel comfortable that if they were shot with a handgun, they’re going to be protected,” Dave Goldberg told the publication.