An Arizona state representative has a novel idea to increase safety among state lawmakers: start wearing bullet-proof vests.
State Rep. Bob Thorpe (R) sent an email on Thursday to all Arizona House and Senate members, inviting them to attend an event this coming Wednesday at the capitol, where someone from a company called Arizona Tactical is scheduled to educate lawmakers about the protective vests it sells.In his email, Thorpe said he has been researching body armor in the wake of the Tucson, Ariz. shooting that injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and led her to step down from Congress. He suggested the vests could be worn at public events like town halls and parades. “Just like our police and DPS (Department of Public Safety) officers, you typically wear the vest under a shirt or top, which conceals their use,” Thorpe wrote, adding that the company would cut the lawmakers a deal and offer the vests at the same price law enforcement officials pay.
But at least one Democratic lawmaker isn’t on board with the suggestion that lawmakers should suit up in protective gear to stay safe. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D), who served in the Marines and did a tour of duty in Iraq, said on Friday that the invitation reveals a mindset among many Arizona Republicans who believe they are under constant threat.
Ruben Gallego / azleg.gov
“It’s just a fantasy world that a lot of these legislators, particularly Republicans, are living in, that they’re going to be wearing body armor and they want to arm themselves and, you know, thinking that they can somehow be Rambo,” Gallego told TPM by phone.
Gallego said he doesn’t have plans to attend the presentation, noting that after six years in the Marines, he knows body armor very well. It’s important to be careful and to coordinate with police if a threat seems plausible, Gallego said, “but our job is to be in the public, our job is to be accessible and not be paranoid.”
Some lawmakers in Arizona have chosen to carry guns in the statehouse. State Sen. Lori Klein (R), now gone from the legislature, made headlines in July 2011 when she pointed a loaded gun at a journalist during an interview in the Senate lounge. The reporter, The Arizona Republic’s Richard Ruelas, wrote at the time: “She showed off the laser sighting by pointing the red beam at the reporter’s chest. The gun has no safety, she said, but there was no need to worry.”
Klein later claimed that Ruelas placed himself in front of the weapon. “He noticed the light, then I noticed the light, then I turned it off. I apologized and let him know that he was safe because I keep my finger out of the trigger guard. Again, that is basic gun safety,” she told the Arizona Capitol Times.
Gallego, too, has brought a gun to the capitol, he said, after receiving a threat over his opposition to a bill to establish a border militia. But he said he left the gun in his car outside the office. He said he has received other death threats, focusing on his opposition to anti-immigration legislation.
Still, Gallego said the state shouldn’t launch into an arms race, with guns or body armor. Arizonans of varied political stripes have lived peacefully together for many years in the state, he said, adding that the proper response to a tragedy like the January 2011 shooting of Giffords, which resulted in the deaths of six people, is to invest in the state’s mental health programs and crack down on illegal guns.
“You just can’t live your life, you know, fearing everybody around you. It’s just not a good way — I just can’t imagine that,” Gallego said. “I mean, I did it for, you know, seven months in Iraq, where I thought everybody was trying to kill me. And I know that mentality. And I just don’t want to live through that again. And I don’t think any human being should live through that. And, you know, so that’s why I’m just not at all interested in this.”
Thorpe was not available for comment. Read the email he sent below:
From: Bob Thorpe
Sent: Thursday, April 04, 2013 12:56 PM
To: .ALLHMEMS; .ALLSMEMS
Subject: Bullet resistant vest / body armor presentation
In the wake of Tucson shooting, I have been researching body armor in order to inform our members about the costs and options for those wishing to purchase a vest for their personal use, for example, at town halls, parades and other public events. These vests have prices ranging from about $600 – $800, and options that include their weight and comfort, bullet stopping ability and colors. Just like our police and DPS officers, you typically wear the vest under a shirt or top, which conceals their use.
I have invited Mike Arthur of AZ Tactical (located at Shooter’s World, about 15 minute drive from the Capitol) to bring in some vests made by Valley Op Wear, which are identical to the ones that many of the Phoenix Police Department officers uses, and to educate us about their use, options and costs. Mr. Arthur is offering the same discounted prices to our members as he provides to members of law enforcement.
Some basic information:
Vests are rated for their knife and bullet stopping ability per NIJ6 certification for body armor
A vest that is rated “2A” should stop up to a standard 357 hand gun round, but not a rifle round
A vest that is rated “3A” should stop up to a standard 44 hand gun round and smaller specialty higher velocity hand gun rounds, but not a rifle round
The actual vest that holds the ballistic plates is called a “carrier.” Officers that wear a vest daily typically purchase a second carrier (about $70) so that they can wash and dry one while wearing the other
The vests are rated for a five year life, but it is my opinion that legislators could wear them much longer because the five year life assumes almost daily law enforcement use
Prior to placing an order, you will be measured for the proper size vest
When: On Wednesday April 10th directly after the Floor sessions
Where: House basement conference rooms 35/38
Who: Mike Arthur, AZ Tactical
Please let me know if you are planning on attending… there is no obligation to purchase anything. If you cannot make it and / or want more information, then please contact Mike at 714-403-5367.
Representative Bob Thorpe, LD-6
Serving the Fine People of the Great and Sovereign State of Arizona
Including Coconino, Gila, Navajo and Yavapai Counties