Higgins revives push for Aaron Salter body armor bill in Congress
New York Congressional Representatives Brian Higgins and Grace Meng were in Buffalo Thursday pushing for the approval of a body armor bill they say will keep law enforcement and community members safe.
The Aaron Salter, Jr. Responsible Body Armor Possession Act, named after the security guard and retired Buffalo police officer who lost his life along with nine others on May 14, 2022. Salter’s attempt to stop the massacre was hampered by the gunman’s military-grade body armor.
Meng, a Congresswoman from Queens, and Higgins are the lead sponsors of the bill that will prohibit the sale, transfer and possession of enhanced body armor, with exceptions made for military members, law enforcement and security jobs.
Flanked by family members of some of victims of the Tops shooting at the Frank Merriweather Jr. Library, Higgins said the bill recognizes the bravery of Salter in the hope that no one else is left defenseless trying to stop a mass shooter.
“It’s a commonsense measure that builds on the bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which was approved by Congress and signed into law by President Biden in 2022,” he said. “It honors the life of Officer Salter, a 30-year veteran of the Buffalo Police Department who selflessly put himself into harm’s way to defend our neighbors against the racist mass shooter who targeted the Buffalo community.”
Providing a replica of the sort of body armor the mass shooter used, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said the bill has been endorsed by law enforcement agencies from across the North America.
“This bill also comes with the full support of the Major City Chiefs Association which represents 70 of the largest municipal police departments in the United States and the nine largest in Canada,” he said. “They fully endorsed this bill and throw their support behind it as well.”
This same bill had difficulty moving through the House one year ago. Meng said whether the bill is looked at on its own or as part of a public safety package, they will take it.
“Oftentimes public sentiment and public awareness can help move mountains,” she said. “We want the public to be more aware of how this was an issue and how this prevented life saving techniques that could’ve been used by Lieutenant Salter on that fateful day.”
Higgins said persistence will win the day in getting the bill passed.
“The path is this: 10,000 bills are introduced in the United States Congress every year, 63 bills get passed,” he said. “The ratios aren’t good. But if you give up you stand no chance.”
The bill does not affect enhanced body armor that is already owned and allows for lower level armor which can be penetrated by less impactful ammunition.