Official seeks limits on sale of body armor

Councilwoman wants ban on purchases by minors

May 01, 2000|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

West Baltimore Councilwoman Catherine E. Pugh will introduce legislation today to ban the sale of body armor to Baltimore minors.

Pugh's legislation would be introduced two weeks after police found a bulletproof vest on a 17-year-old shooting suspect accused of killing a city police officer in a car chase. Officers in some sections of the city report a rise in the protective gear among teen suspects involved in the city's estimated $1 billion-a-year illegal drug trade.

"We've got to do something," Pugh said. "The killing has to stop."

How 17-year-old Eric Darcel Stennett, charged with first-degree murder in the death of Officer Kevon Gavin, got the vest has not been determined by homicide detectives. Most vests have serial numbers, but this one has not been traced, officials said. Body armor is available in gun stores throughout the Baltimore region, but most merchants say they choose their customers carefully: police, security guards, merchants or others who can prove a need.

Two years ago, the state legislature chose not to pass a bill that would have restricted sales of body armor to a select class of buyers. Lawmakers approved a provision that makes it a crime punishable by up to five years in prison to commit an offense while wearing a bullet-resistant vest.

Gary McLhinney, president of the city's police union, welcomed Pugh's bill.

"It's a step in the right direction to regulate it," McLhinney said.

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