When a shooter attacked a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, last weekend, his security guard tried to stop him. At least one of his shots hit the militant, but that didn’t stop the deadly riot because the gunman was wearing a body armor.

Ten black people were killed in the racist massacre, including bodyguard Aaron Salter, a retired Buffalo police officer who was called a hero. This is the last mass shooting, during which an armed man was apparently prepared for someone to try to stop him with a gun.

At least 21 shooters have worn body armor over the past four decades – and most have been for the past 10 years, according to a database maintained by The Violence Project, a non-partisan research group that tracks gun violence.

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Among them: a massacre that killed 12 people and injured dozens at a crowded movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012, and another in nearby Boulder that killed 10 people at a supermarket last year. The shooter in the deadliest massacre in Texas was also in protective gear when he killed more than two dozen people at a church in 2017, as did a radicalized Islamic couple who carried out a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, in 2015.

“They demonstrate intent:‘ I absolutely want to kill or injure as many people as possible before I just can’t fight anymore, ’” said Chris Burbank, a former police chief in Salt Lake City who is now with the Police Justice Center.

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The Violence Project database does not show a clear link to body armor and casualties. But such equipment could allow attackers to shoot longer and is a symbolic way to follow public expectations as to what the mass shooting looks like, said James Dansley, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Minnesota who co-founded The Violence Project.

“The mass shooting should be the final act – you can’t get rid of a mass shooting,” Dansley said. “So it has to be a great spectacle, and it has to be for people to pay attention and notice it. One way to do that is to get dressed by pretending to be in the military. ”

Police are seeing body armor in other types of investigations, such as drug cases, said former Miami Police Chief Jorge Colin. Body armor is relatively easy to obtain, especially a soft body armor, similar to body armor worn regularly by police officers, which is effective against pistols.

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Under US law, getting body armor is not difficult. Under federal law, convicted criminals are illegal to purchase body armor, but there are several restrictions on their purchase. Only one state blocks it from ordering online and sending homes: Connecticut, which requires a personal purchase.

Colin would like more states to consider tougher rules.

“I don’t think it’s too much of a thought, but we’ve seen it many times, and we’ve seen it here in South Florida,” Colin said. you can’t stop them if you have to use deadly force, horrible. “

However, body armor itself is not inherently dangerous and is actually aimed at protection – something many people think amid a surge in gun violence in the United States, Burbank said. And it is unclear what will be the effective adjustment of body armor, given the complexity of adjusting the weapons used in shooting.

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“Most of the same laws apply to weapons,” Burbank said. “Does it forbid anyone in this country to have access to firearms?”

Body armor was not worn in most mass shootings, said James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University who has been tracking mass killings since 2006 along with the Associated Press and USA Today.

But it shows the level of planning. The body armor was mentioned more than a dozen times in online writings attributed to white Buffalo shooting suspect Peyton Hendron, who was arrested at a supermarket and pleaded not guilty to murder.

The Violence Project database also does not include homicides that do not meet the definition of mass shooting because less than four people were killed.

Last October, during one such shooting at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, a paramedic in blue scrubs and a ballistic vest killed a colleague and then wounded two police officers before killing himself. In another, this month in Round Rock, Texas, a 31-year-old Marine veteran wounded a neighbor before engaging in a shootout with law enforcement, after which he was found dead, wearing a body armor.

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Contrary to U.S. law, four Canadian provinces have imposed severe restrictions on the possession of body armor – Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. Residents must obtain permits to own body armor, including ballistic vests, and must be vetted before obtaining these permits, which must be renewed annually or biennially. Violators face heavy fines and imprisonment.

Alberta passed its law in 2012 because of rising gang violence, in which gang members wore vests, committing crimes such as shooting from the road, and even playing in public, said Jan Rodyk, a spokesman for the province’s Ministry of Justice and Attorney General.

Applicants must not have a criminal record. Permits are usually issued to those whose work, such as security guards, requires protection.

Some Australian territories also restrict possession of body armor.

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Associated Press writer Susan Hay of Hartford, Connecticut, contributed to the report.

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