Demand for Protective Gear Soaring After Rough 2020, Capitol Riots

Demand for Protective Gear Soaring After Rough 2020, Capitol Riots riot control forces are geared, armed, and using protective equipment including plastic shields (Alex Brandon/AP)

By Sandy Fitzgerald | Saturday, 16 January 2021 08:50 PM

The demand for protective gear has already soared over the past year, and now there is a nationwide shortage of gas masks, bulletproof vests, and other equipment as state and federal agencies prepare for violence ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration.

"Demand went up again after the Capitol," Michael Wilson, a government sales manager for Los Angeles retailer Security Pro USA, commented to the Los Angeles Times. "It just stacked on top of an already existing shortage."

Retailers are reporting their sales are five times as high in sales of military-grade gear, which has left shelves empty and people waiting on lists to buy items.

An Oregon retailer says it has sold out of the decontamination wipes that are used to remove chemical agents, and in Texas, thousands of pieces of body armor flew off the shelves when they went on sale.

Even before the Capitol riots, the demand for protective equipment was soaring, beginning with the coronavirus pandemic and continuing as protesters hit the nation's streets this summer over police violence and racism.

And after the riots, state and federal lawmakers, journalists, law enforcement, and others looking for protective equipment are facing lengthy delays.

Wilson said recent customers are looking for body armor, with civilians buying helmets, body vests, gas masks, and unmarked riot shields.

Roman Zrazhevskiy, at the Austin, Texas business Mira Safety, said security officials from three state capitals have contacted him for equipment after the FBI warned about possible attacks as Biden's inauguration approaches.

Before 2020, Zrazhevskiy said his customers were "preparedness types" but now his patrons are city dwellers or professionals.

"These are people who never really thought about this stuff before," Zrazhevskiy said. "But then the events of 2020 have had this compounding effect. It seemed like every month, the year was trying to one-up itself."