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Is Body Armor Legal In The United States?

Is Body Armor Legal In The United States?

4 minute read

It’s legal to purchase and possess body armor throughout the United States, except in Connecticut where the laws are extremely strict. It’s important to know that in most states the purchaser, not the vendor, is responsible for being in compliance with the laws and regulations in the state where the protective gear is purchased. That’s why it’s important to be aware of these laws before purchasing and using body armor.

Body Armor Sales In Connecticut Must Be Face To Face

Connecticut is the only state that outlaws all marketing of body armor to consumers, including online stores that offer to ship products to Connecticut. The state makes it a class B misdemeanor to sell or deliver body armor without meeting in person. Violators are subject to six months of jail time and/or heavy fines so it’s important to limit all sales to state residents to pure face to face transactions. 

Body Armor Cannot Be Sold To Violent Felons

18 US Code § 931 prohibits the purchase, ownership, or possession of body armor by violent felons. There is an exception for persons that obtain prior written authorization from an employer indicating that the body armor was necessary for the safe performance of their duties, and that the body armor will only be used for employment related activities.  In such cases, the use of the bulletproof vest or other protection equipment must be limited to their use with that particular employer. Most states echo this prohibition against sales to violent felons, differing slightly about which particular crimes it applies to. Some states, like New Hampshire, have no laws at all barring sales of body armor.

Wearing Body Armor Can Be A Crime

Some states such as New York, Georgia, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Tennessee and Virginia,  have passed laws making it a separate additional crime to commit certain types of felonies while wearing body armor. In New York, it is an additional offense to wear a bulletproof vest while possessing firearms, shotguns, or rifles, or in the furtherance of crimes. In Georgia, it’s a separate crime to be wearing body armor while engaging in drug trafficking or violent crimes. New Hampshire makes it a crime to commit any type of felony while wearing body armor. In New Jersey, you can be separately charged for committing any type of crime whatsoever while wearing body armor. Tennessee makes it a Class E felony to use body armor while committing a crime. In Virginia, it’s a Class 4 felony to wear armor designed to minimize the effects of projectiles while in possession of a knife or firearm and/or while committing a felony. It’s extremely important to be aware of the details of the law your state before possessing or using body armor, and it would be prudent to also explore local laws and regulations.

Body Armor Is Legal For Most People and Purposes In The United States

It is legal to sell body armor online or in person in every state but Connecticut, and unless you’re a convicted felon, you can use it to protect yourself while hunting, traveling in high crime areas, and other legal purposes. It’s important to be aware that some states such as New York have strict gun possession laws which make it illegal to wear body armor while possessing firearms, even if no crime is being committed. 

Body Armor Laws Outside The United States

There are no restrictions on buying or owning body armor in the United Kingdom, while some countries outside the United States have strict laws. For example, in parts of Australia possession of body armor requires pre-authorization, and skipping this process is a serious crime. The European Union prohibits ballistic protection that is considered “military grade,” and in some Canadian provinces a license is required to obtain body armor.

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