Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Local Businesses Blast Body Armour Ban

On Tuesday, the BC Government introduced legislation that will restrict the purchase of body armour to law enforcement, security personnel, and other people with a demonstrated need.  Among the several businesses supplying police equipment and surplus military gear in New Westminster, opinions on how the law would impact to business were mixed.  However, thoughts on how effective the law will be were clear.

Dave’s Surplus, on 12th Street, said they currently only sell body armour to police and law enforcement officials.  Staff there felt there was no need for civilians to possess body armour, “other than maybe bouncers.”  The main problem, they said, was once body armour is put onto the general market, you “can’t control where it will go,” after the first purchaser is done with it. 

Based in Victoria, MD Charlton is a law enforcement supply company with a major branch on Columbia Street.  Like Dave’s, they currently sell body armour only to police, military and similar services.  As such, they said the legislation will have no impact on them and would like to see body armour off the street.  To assist with this, people who buy armour from them can return the armour when it expires, and they will dispose of it for the user. 

Westley Surplus on Front Street is less restrictive on who they will sell to.  “Anyone should be able to buy it,” the manager said.  Westley has no restrictions in place and will sell armour to anyone who wishes to purchase it, meaning this law will significantly impact how they sell armour. The manager also stated the proposed legislation has created an environment for price gouging, with some stores more than tripling the prices of their armour in anticipation of the law. 

Where all three stores agreed was on the effect the legislation will have on safety.  Everyone stated the proposed legislation will make no difference to public safety or significantly affect the gangs’ ability to get armour.  Westley said you can get anything you want off the internet, and MD Charlton spoke at length about different ways armour comes into the province.  Internet sales, from both Canada and the US were named the primary culprit by all stores. 

Other than banning possession, the proposed legislation seems to have no ability to restrict internet sales.  Without similar restrictions in place in other provinces, there is nothing to prevent out of province stores selling to buyers in BC.  Private sales from the U.S. are also an issue.  According to MD Charlton, Canadian Border Services Agency does restrict the flow of body armour coming from the US, however a lot of it slips by with generic descriptions such as “shirt” or “clothing.” 

Given the multitude of sources of armour available to those who want it, will the proposed legislation make local streets safer?  According to those who sell the armour here, the answer is a resounding no. 

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