Wearing a bulletproof vest without a permit may soon be illegal in B.C., if new restrictions proposed by the provincial government are passed into law.
The Body Armour Control Act was introduced to the legislature by Solicitor General Kash Heed on Tuesday. Similar laws already exist in Australia and the United States, but the new rules would be a first for Canada, Heed said.
If passed, the legislation could restrict the sale and ownership of body armour to law enforcement officials, prison and security guards, and private investigators. It would also require shops selling body armour to be licensed.
Anyone else wishing to legally buy or wear body armour would have to undergo a criminal record check and prove they have a reasonable need for it, or face a maximum $10,000 fine or six months in jail.
The intent is to deny criminals a protection that might make them more likely to engage in violent behaviour, Heed said.
"Police see it all too often. The gang member or organized criminal is out on our streets and in our neighbourhoods while hiding behind the added protection of bulletproof vests as innocent bystanders remain unprotected and vulnerable," Heed said.
"By taking away criminals' sense of security, we decrease the potential for violence in public settings."
Liberals first opposed ban
New Democratic MLA Mike Farnworth first introduced a private member's bill to regulate the wearing of Kevlar body armour in February, following a spate of gun violence between gangs battling for control of the Lower Mainland's illegal drug trade.
In one of those instances, suspected gang leader Jamie Bacon was shot at while driving his armoured Mercedes down a busy street in Abbotsford. He was reportedly wearing body armour at the time and escaped injury.
The then solicitor general, John van Dongen, accused Farnworth of political grandstanding, saying gangsters who ignore gun laws weren't likely to obey body armour laws.
Then three weeks later, the B.C. Liberal government laid out a seven-point plan to combat gang and gun violence that included a promise to bring in legislation banning automobile and body armour.