U.S. Body Armor Laws - A Breakdown
Many people are unfamiliar with laws regarding the sale and/or possession of body armor within the United States, whether it's ballistic, stab rated, and helmets or vests. As there are legal restrictions on firearms ownership and even on something as mundane as owning and operating a car many people assume armor is illegal for civilian possession or that certain types are "restricted". I hope to address all relevant legal concerns regarding ownership of body armor in the U.S. within this article.
For reference, this article is specifically referring to purchase and possession by non-LEO/Military persons, I.E. civilians.
As seen in the map above, at the state level only Connecticut has any restrictions on body armor sales or possession.
Connecticut law makes it a Misdemeanor, punishable by 6 months imprisonment, a $1000 fine, or both, to deliver or sell body armor unless the buyer and seller meet face-to-face. This essentially bans Connecticut citizens from purchasing body armor through any source except in-person sales. There are exemptions for police and several other criminal justice forces, as well as members of the National Guard or active military.
Other restrictions across the U.S. will be local (city/county) level only or simply further restriction on felony possession past the federal ban on violent felon possession. The city of Chicago, Illinois passed some form of ban in 2018 after a state level ban effort failed, but its current status is unknown as the restrictions were loosened later and there was ongoing debate on the issue.
At the federal level the only ban on possession is in regards to convicted violent felons. The law is 18 U.S. Code 931. Under federal law persons convicted of violent felonies cannot posses body armor at all, though there is a minor exception. If the armor is required for that persons job at their place of employment and their employer provides written certification of such then that felon may possess body armor, but only insofar as it is relevant to the safe performance of their job.
In conclusion -
That's all there really is to it. Body armor within the United States is largely unregulated. There are no restrictions based on type or level and any bans or restriction on possession were mentioned above. That said it is perfectly legal (for a non-felon) to buy any body armor they wish through any method they wish, Connecticut's sales restrictions excepted.
All that said this only covers armor sales/possession within the United States by U.S. citizens. Export of armor outside the U.S. and sales to non-citizens is a much larger legal quagmire that may be covered in a future post, but is not within the scope of this article.
Stay safe, stay informed, and thanks for reading.