ANNAPOLIS – An individual’s ability to own a bulletproof vest would be sharply restricted under new legislation proposed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening and introduced in the Senate Tuesday.
A citizen interested in owning body armor would have go through the same process as someone applying for a gun permit, said Glendening’s spokeswoman Michelle Byrnie.
Body armor applicants would have to have a good reason to become eligible for the permit, Byrnie said.
The governor’s bill, she said, is made to protect law enforcement officers from criminals wearing bulletproof vests.
“(Body armor) emboldens people who commit violent acts,” Byrnie said.
Some Senate and House members already oppose the bill.
Going through the same process as getting a gun permit would be “a bureaucratic nightmare” for banks or convenience stores that may buy body armor for their employees, said Sen. Larry E. Haines, D-Carroll.
“All we need is to penalize criminals,” Haines said.
Making people apply for a permit “seems to be a bit ridiculous,” said Delegate Kevin Kelly, D-Allegany. “It’s excessive to have a permitting process.”
People who work in “a bad part of town” should be allowed to own a bulletproof vest, said Kelly.
The State Police “backs the governor,” said spokesman Cpl. Rob Moroney. But he said he couldn’t comment directly on the bill because he hadn’t seen it yet.
“If you can’t stop criminals from buying a firearm, how are you going to stop them from buying a body armor,” said Sanford Abrams, vice president of the state Licensed Firearms Dealers Association.
Abrams said a criminal could easily buy a bulletproof vest on the Internet.
“Everything is on the Web,” he said.
Abrams, who owns a Baltimore gun shop, said he sells 50 to 60 body armors per year, but only to those who can prove they need protection in their store.
Sen. Walter M. Baker, D-Cecil, said the bill would need some amendments to allow a person operating a business to purchase a protective vest.
“I don’t think people should be walking around with them,” said Baker, chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee that will hear the bill. “It will probably require a lot of amendments to accommodate certain situations.”
“I think that if you were a diamond salesman you should be wearing one,” said Baker.
Byrnie said women in domestic violence cases or even journalists covering dangerous situations would have quicker access to the permit.
“The bottom line,” Byrnie said, “is that it will make it safer for law enforcement officers to do their jobs.”
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