Saturday, July 11, 2020

Ballistic Armor: Legality

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
If you didn't own ballistic armor before the COVID-19 lockdown (with its commensurate reduction in police time) or the later urban unrest and rioting, I'm certain you've at least given thought to buying some. Much like a gun, a set of ballistic plates is something that a lot of preppers hope they never have to use but rest easier knowing they have it just in case SHTF.

However, just like buying a gun, shopping for armor is something that should not be done quickly. It requires research and forethought, as well as a fair bit of discretionary income, and your decision depends on what level of protection you want, how much weight you can tolerate/how much mobility you are willing to lose, and how much money you have to spend.

However, that is a topic which I will cover in a later post, because the first hurdle you must overcome is "Can I legally buy body armor?"

Please note that all answers are for the USA only.

No State or Federal Prohibition (Yet)
The answer to that is "At this moment in time, it is legal to buy, own and wear ballistic armor so long as you are not a convicted felon and you are not committing a crime." I specify this moment in time because it seems that every year there is an attempt, either state-level or locally, to ban the possession of ballistic armor by "civilians", which is usually interpreted as "people who are not current or retired law enforcement officers and perhaps current, licensed security guards." In fact, last year there was a bill before the US House or Representatives that attempted to do just that; fortunately, it seems to have died in committee, although we will have to wait until January 2021 and the end of the 116th Congress to be certain.

A Clean Criminal Record
At the federal level, you cannot own any sort of body armor (their terminology) if you have been convicted of a violent felony (18 U.S. Code § 931) unless you need it for a job, your employer gives you written certification that your job requires you to wear said armor, and that you only wear it while on the job.

At the state level, it depends. Most states prohibit ownership of ballistic armor if you have any felony convictions whatsoever; only Arizona, Connecticut, and Delaware do not. Maryland is more restrictive in that it prohibits anyone with a prior conviction for a "crime of violence, or a drug trafficking crime."

Can You Buy It Online?
At this time, only Connecticut prohibits online purchases of body armor to non-law enforcement. You may however buy it face-to-face.

Where Can You Wear It?
Most states treat body armor like a firearm in that if you wear it during the commission of a crime, that in itself is a felony. However, I am certain that my readers are law-abiding citizens who will not engage in criminal activity, so I won't detail which ones.

In the state of Louisiana, it is illegal to wear body armor while on school property.

In the city of Topeka, Kansas, it is illegal to possess, carry or wear a bulletproof vest during protests, parades, rallies, assemblies and demonstrations.

You cannot ship, take, bring, or send body armor outside the USA without Federal permission.

Next week: Levels of Protection.


  1. I was just talking with a friend about this subject last week. Thanks for the information .

  2. so this image came to mind;

  3. I think that I might be optimistic, but I myself don't expect that I will need ballistic armor, unless we start a civil war of the shooting kind. And if that happens, I won't worry about the legalities of it.
    As I said, I may be overly optimistic, and should buy some now. But it is like anything else. I have a limited budget, and have to prioritize my spending. I could buy something today, if I decided that the expense was worth reducing the hit on my financial nest egg. I just can't buy everything that I see and want.
    It is a lot like hobbies. You can't always afford to do all of them, so you have to just pick one, and do the heck out of it.


  4. What is Ballistic Body Armor? Are steel plates in a carrier considered BBA? Vietnam Flak Vest? Interceptor Body Armor?

    1. Per 18 USC § 921(a)(35):

      (35) The term “body armor” means any product sold or offered for sale, in interstate or foreign commerce, as personal protective body covering intended to protect against gunfire, regardless of whether the product is to be worn alone or is sold as a complement to another product or garment.

      I call that sort of thing ballistic armor, as there are other forms of protection which could be called "body armor" but protect against other things, like road rash or knife cuts.


The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License

Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to