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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

What if we pushed body armor like the NRA pushes guns? 

by Spocko

I've marveled before at the multiple strategies the NRA uses to sell more guns. They make money after ever mass shooting. They have created an environment where the answer to any question about guns is more guns It's clever in its twistedness. It makes sense that Donald Trump is happy to be part of this selling scheme.

I've been talking to people at several groups lately about what strategies can be used to make changes in how we tackle the gun problem in our society. I'm looking at multiple ways from legal to financial to cultural. I've wanted to know what worked, what didn't and why.

As part of the exercise I looked at what the NRA did to get where they are today and wondered how a group could do the same, only with a different product, one that could prevent deaths.

What if that group had the same willingness the NRA has shown to use every technique in their bag of tricks to sell more products--no matter the consequences?

I picked a product--body armor. I created a group with three initials, BAA, for the Body Armor Association. What if they sold body armor the way NRA sells guns?

1) Provide easy availability at multiple price points

First they would make bullet proof clothing and helmets as easy to get and as cheap to buy as a handgun. There would be no requirements on people to buy them or laws to block its sale. Restrictions that make sense (like not selling to felons or bigger criminal charges for people who use them in committing a crime) would be dismissed as unnecessary and a hindrance. "People have a right to feel safe, in their home and out in public, their past criminal history shouldn't infringe on their right to feel safe!"

2) Pay state lawmakers to fix the laws in body armor's favor on a state by state basis
Currently in the United States it is legal to purchase and possess body armor, apart from a few exceptions: From Safe Guard Armor 
  • In Connecticut, body armor can only be purchased face-to-face, and cannot be purchased online, over the phone, or by mail;
  • In New York, the ban of body armor for private citizens is being debated;
  • In some states such as Kentucky, committing a crime while wearing or even possessing body armor is a crime in and of itself;
  • In Louisiana, it is illegal to wear body armor on school property. 
The legislative arm of the group would write bills like ALEC did for the NRA to repealing any laws that put restrictions on the purchase of body armor and open up new markets for body armor. If lawmakers didn't support the bills, they would not get endorsements and donations would be withheld. This would require money, but buying influence at the state level is surprisingly cheap. Also be positioned as 'bi-partisan,' as a a pro-life bill.

3) Make the owning of body armor part of a higher law or ideal, maybe even a right

Like how the NRA uses the 2nd Amendment laws to sell more guns, the Body Armor Association BAA might use the preamble of the constitution as their foundational argument. After all, it is before the 2nd Amendment.
 We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Constitutional scholars and homegrown experts can argue on what it all means. Pay a couple of historians to write some books. The important thing is to "start a conversation" even if you have to jump through some flaming hoops with blindfolds to make the case.
"What part of insure domestic Tranquility don't people understand?  Guy with a gun shoots at you, are you going to feel more tranquil with a vest or without one? Also, note that the Framers used the phrase "provide for the common defense." If they wanted to provide for the common offensive they would have said so and named it in the document. Remember, the USA was not the aggressor in the war."

4) Bring religion into the picture

Getting Jesus on board is easy, what with the whole "turn the other cheek" story Matthew 5:38-39. Also, always tie it to sales. "It's easier to turn the other cheek when wearing this GM-IIIA glass visor mask and ballistic helmet!"

5) No liability for manufacturers, ever.

Laws would be passed so the manufacturers of the clothing were immune from all product liability cases, ever, even if they are defective.  Liability lawsuits cost money, it's cheaper to pay some lawmakers to grant immunity. The manufacturers will show their gratitude to the BAA leaders.

6) Sell body armor into fashion markets for men, women and children 

The BAA would enlist the United States Fashion Industry Association to boost sales. Seed money would be given to the industry to make more lightweight, fashionable kevlar clothing for everyday wear.

They would enlist fashion designers to make them look cool. Since styles change every year for adults, people will buy new body armor in multiple styles depending on their mood and activity.

Get celebrities on board!
From left, designer of #BabyYeezy BulletProofVest, unidentified man, unidentified woman one, mother of child model (North West), unidentified woman two. Photo Reuters
Growing children will need new sizes every year. Parents will need to buy new Back To School body armor. This all increases revenue for manufacturers. Here's North West the son of Kanye West wearing a bulletproof vest designed by his father.

Kim Kardashian's actual tweet. Look at my little cutie!!!

 #DaddysMuse #BabyYeezy 

BulletProofVest. Photos Brian Prahl Splash News 
 The BAA would also accept kickbacks (I mean donations) from the clothing industry for every single item of clothing sold, just like they do with the gun makers.

7) Get the government to buy body armor for all employees 

Government unions are powerful. Who is in more danger than a government office worker? New contracts would demand workers get free body armor. Office workers would be required to wear them as part of their job. The body armor would have to meet government specifications. A cost plus model would be implemented for the resellers in the government market.

8) Get the government to pay for school children's body armor

School board members would be lobbied by BAA to send new requirements to state and federal governments for all children to wear body armor while in school. The BAA would provide the school board with statistics for why it's necessary. If the government hesitates, the BAA would ask private donors to provide body armor.

What about schools with no sponsors? Schools where parents can't afford body armor?   To put more pressure on the government to provide body armor, start pointing out racial differences. Who needs the body armor more? Rich white suburban kids or "urban" kids?

REMINDER: A part of all profits from government sales goes to BAA for government lobbying, advertising and PR campaigns to sell more body armor and helmets.

9) Absorb attacks from body armor haters

Just like they do for the gun manufacturers, the BAA would also absorb any of the attacks on the body armor makers when a bulletproof vest didn't work correctly. The focus would always be on user failure, not manufacturer failure.
"The injured party wasn't wearing the clothing properly. We suggest that everyone wearing body armor attend a BAA class on proper fit and use. Instructors can help users select the vest size and type that are effective for the kind of threat each individual faces"

10) Redefine how people talk about the body armor-- direct this to journalists

Start with a popular phrase like bullet proof.  Redefine it and use it as a club if it is used generically. A group that redefines a term starts owning it.

Journalists will be constantly corrected via multiple channels, tweets, Facebook, emails and phone calls. Even good old letters to the editors will be enlisted.
"Dear Sirs/ladies: In your recent article "Bullet Proof Vest Saves Child's Life" you referred to the body armor the child was wearing as "bullet proof." That is incorrect. Technically the body armor in question should have properly been called bullet resistant.  This is just sloppy journalism. 
In the future do your homework before throwing out generalizations about body armor. 

Complaints in on-line forums would look like this, "Why should I listen to any "journalists" who don't know the difference between Kevlar 29 and Kevlar Correctional? He probably still thinks we use metal plates instead of UHMWPE for ballistic panels!"  The point is to let the journalists know they will hear from you whenever they write about body armor. Good or bad.

11) Change the culture of wearing body armor by appealing to the desired self image of users 

One of the most important roles of the Body Armor Association would be to change the image of body armor wearing people.  This is part of a broader cultural change. Use of tv and movies is essential.

The NRA has spent decades pushing the idea that masculinity is tied up with using a gun. But there is a difference between pushing it as protection and pushing it for payback, revenge and instant "justice"

Separate someone who is smart about protection from guns and someone who is dumb with a gun.

12) Call people who don't like body armor sick

People who complain they feel uncomfortable around people wearing bullet resistant vests, would be told they suffer from a made up ailment Vestiphobia 

13) Make wearing body armor a duty 

Wearing concealed body armor would be pushed as a duty that people accepted as part of being American and protecting one's family. Since nothing can be done about guns, this is the best step that can be taken.

Fathers would be especially targeted for this tactic. The BAA would would run ads and send letters to fathers appealing to their desire to be protectors.
"We know you would take a bullet for your child, but you can't stand over her every day. That's why it's a man's duty to protect their child when they aren't there. 
If your child is at a school and was NOT wearing her vest, you failed her!  Bullet resistant body armor and helmets must be worn everyday!"
13) Shame people who didn't wear body armor

After every shooting death and injury, instead of calls for more guns, which would not have stopped the bullets, there would be a call for more bulletproof vests and helmets. People who own bulletproof vest and helmets come forward and shame the victims for failure to wear. "If I was there, wearing my vest, I would have been fine. It's their own fault they didn't wear body armor, hopefully this will wake people up and they will start wearing body armor everywhere."

14) Make wearing body armor routine 
Parents would join groups that encouraged them to wear the bullet proof clothing in case of a home invasion. "Brush your teeth, put on your PJs and vest and daddy will come and read you a story."

Every morning they would dress up their children in kevlar vests and fashionable bulletproof backpacks.

15) Set one group of customers against another for more sales 

If sales start flagging, up the ante to get old customers to add more gear or more expensive gear. For example, in states that have started allowing teachers to carry concealed weapons, parents will need to get more than just vests for the children, since their heads are exposed during class.

Lobby school board for more funds to pay for this gap in body armor coverage.

Feeling protected?
The whole idea of a group pushing body armor like the NRA pushes guns might seem ridiculous.  "People would never do all that." But the gun lobby has taken these kind of actions and more. They have changed laws, customs, definitions, attitudes and have created an entire culture.  It's pretty damn impressive and can be disheartening when it appears nothing will ever changes.

But... they are not a force of nature. They do not have supernatural powers.

They are just men and women whose greed has systematically gone about making America this way.

If things don't change is it because they care more? They are smarter? More ruthless? Better funded? Better organized?

I don't think so.

There are more of us who can and will work systematically to make changes to reduce gun violence in America.  Until that day comes I'm looking into this.


  • Ballistic Level: NIJ Level IIIa
  • Stab (Edged Blade) Level: Level 2
  • Spike Level: Level 2
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