California bans violent felons from owning body armor

08:31, June 03, 2010      

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California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a state law on Wednesday banning violent felons from owning body armor in a bid to protect the safety of law enforcement agents and the public, the Los Angeles Times reported on its website.

"Violent felons wearing body armor pose a dangerous threat to our communities and especially to our men and women in law enforcement," Schwarzenegger said. SB 408 was necessary because an appeals court last year overturned a similar law for being too vague, according to state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), who penned the legislation.

"This bill shows that the Legislature is serious about public safety," Padilla said. "This legislation is an essential tool in protecting the safety of peace officers in the line of duty."

Two bank robbers wearing body armor exchanged hundreds of rounds of gunfire with Los Angeles Police Department officers in a takeover robbery at a Bank of America in North Hollywood in 1997. Some of the bullets fired by police were deflected by the body armor worn by the robbers. The battle left 11 officers and seven civilians wounded, The Times said.

A law banning convicted felons from possessing body armor was approved by the state in 1998. But a panel from the 2nd District Court of Appeal overturned the ban in December after it was challenged by Ethan Saleem, a felon with a voluntary manslaughter conviction who was on parole when he was found in possession of a bulletproof vest. The appeals panel ruled that the definition of body armor was too vague in December 2009.

The new law allows prosecutors to charge any person convicted of a violent offense with a felony if they are found in possession of any type of body armor.

Recent incidents involving attacks on law enforcement officers show that the law is still needed, Padilla said.

On March 19, a parolee with 19 arrests and four convictions was found to be wearing body armor after a high-speed chase in Los Angeles, Padilla said.

He also noted that a bullet-proof vest was found on a man arrested Jan. 20 on suspicion of killing eight people in Virginia, the daily newspaper reported.



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