SAN JOSE - Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, today announced legislation that would block civilians from accessing military-grade body armor to prevent criminals from using them in gun battles with law enforcement.
Honda, speaking at a news conference in San Jose this morning with police chiefs and the district attorneys and sheriffs from Santa Clara and Alameda counties, said his proposal would discourage criminals from wearing enhanced body armor to commit mass shootings.
"This bill will keep military body armor out of the wrong hands," Honda said. "It would ensure that only law enforcement, firefighters and other first responders would be able to access enhanced body armor."
"We're not talking about just a standard bullet-proof vest," he said. "We're talking about body armor that is designed for warfare, designed to protect against law enforcement ammunitions."
Honda said shootings by armored assailants are becoming a trend in recent years and said that according to experts, "access to military-grade body armor emboldens criminals and mass shooters to act."
"There's nothing more dangerous than an unstoppable, well-armored shooter," he said. "The law enforcement community sees an increase in use of body armor in violent, gun-related crimes."
The congressman cited a shooting on July 22 in Riverside County, where a man wearing body armor and armed with an assault rifle shot and killed two sheriff's deputies and wounded another.
"We should be asking ourselves, why is this armor available to just anyone, if it was designed to be used only by our solders to take to war?" Honda said.
He said he introduced the bill, H.R. 5344, the Responsible Body Armor Possession Act of 2014, in Congress last week.
The proposed law would prohibit the sale, transfer or possession of military-level body armor by civilians.
Honda said it has been endorsed by law enforcement organizations including the California State Sheriffs' Association, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Peace Officers Research Association of California, according to Honda.
Santa Clara County's District Attorney Jeff Rosen and Sheriff Laurie Smith and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley and Sheriff Gregory Ahern also attended today's news conference, held at the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office in San Jose.
Santa Clara police Chief Michael Sellers and Milpitas police Chief Steve Pangelinan also attended the news conference.