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Is it Legal to Own and Wear Body armour in the UK?

Even for those most informed about the technicalities of body armour, body armour is not always straightforward to purchase. While many people would feel safer travelling around dangerous areas with the added protection of body armour, doing so is not always so simple. There are many different laws governing the use of body armour worldwide, so it is essential that you keep in mind that there may be restrictions on its purchase or usage dependant on your area. Many people are not fully educated about the laws surrounding body armour, with many unsure if it is even legal to purchase at all. Ultimately it is your responsibility to ensure that you are adhering to the legal restrictions or regulations in your area when purchasing body armour online, but as a starting point we have listed below several different examples of the legal status of body armour in a variety of different areas worldwide.

  • In Australia it is illegal to possess body armour without authorisation in certain territories (South Australia, Victoria, Northern Territory, ACT, Queensland and New South Wales).

  • In certain Canadian provinces (Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Nova Scotia) a license is required to possess body armour, though there are no such restrictions in the rest of the country.

  • In the European Union, ballistic protection that is considered ‘for main military usage’ is forbidden to civilians.

  • In the United Kingdom, there are currently no legal restrictions on the purchasing and owning body armour.

  • In the United States it is legal to purchase and possess body armour, except for a few exceptions:

- In Connecticut, body armour can only be purchased face-to-face, and cannot be purchased online, over the phone, or by mail;

- In New York, a proposed ban of body armour for private citizens is being debated;

- In some states such as Kentucky, committing a crime while wearing or even possessing body armour is a crime in and of itself;

- In Louisiana, it is illegal to wear body armour on school property.

Even in areas where wearing body armour is legal, wearing overt (visible, on top of clothing) body armour is likely to attract attention from both the general public and law enforcement officials. Police officers may want to ascertain why you are wearing a vest – an individual wearing an overt protective vest might appear to be protecting themselves from imminent danger, and the police may want to determine if you know of any impeding threats, or even if you are a threat yourself. In cases such as these it is important to remain calm and simply explain the situation. As long as you are abiding by the law, police officers are likely to be understanding. To avoid this situation altogether, you could opt for a covert vest, which is worn underneath the clothing. This still grants you additional safety against threats but remains out of sight, affording you a greater degree of anonymity.

Remember, the above is by no means an exhaustive list and ensuring that you are abiding by the law is paramount. Where rules and regulations apply it is your responsibility to be aware of and adhere to them. If you are unsure about any such laws, it is imperative that you educate yourself before making a purchase.