MESA, AZ — As security ramps up in Washington D.C., and across the country, ahead of President-elect Biden's inauguration, some are stocking up on their own security in the form of body armor.
In Mesa, one Air Force veteran has been selling AR500 body armor plates and tactical vests out of the back of his truck.
"I’ve been doing it for about a month now," said Eddie Prest. "It’s very trying times right now, people are uncomfortable. I’m not profiteering off of that. This is something I’ve been planning on doing for a while."
Prest operates out of his FJ Cruiser, in a dirt lot near Val Vista Drive and Main Street/
He has a pop-up tent, a faceless mannequin, and a folding table for his display of plates, which include the 'Trump 2020' logo, the Gadsden flag, and the American flag as options.
Selling body armor, in a Mesa dirt lot, out of the back of a truck.— Zach Crenshaw (@ZachCrenshaw) January 16, 2021
And selling lots of it...
On @ABC15 at 10, you’ll meet Eddie (an Air Force vet) & some of his customers - why they’re peddling now & if they think purchasing bulletproof armor is problematic post 1/6. pic.twitter.com/Xnzcilt2LY
It is a low budget set-up with solid profit margins.
"The whole set-up with the vest and front, back and side plates is $450 out the door," said Prest, who took cash from one man and had another man pay him through an app, in a matter of minutes.
"Everybody has jacked up their prices right now. Everybody has supply and demand issues. I’m one of very few people that actually has plates," he said, noting he recently started 'State 48 Plates.' "I’m not trying to get rich off of this. I’m just trying to help people have a little bit of comfort."
That so-called comfort is hard to come by after the Capitol riots on January 6.
"[The industry] is backlogged. [Supply] is four or five months out," said Garrett Morris, who lives down the street in Mesa and has been looking to buy some AR500 steel plates online.
"I sell out almost every day," said Prest. "So I actually ramped up my supply as much as I could."
"I heard about it the other week from family that they saw somebody peddling AR500 out here, and I wanted some," said Morris.
The 23-year-old though does not even own a real gun. Morris told ABC15 he was not buying it as a reaction to the recent politically-motivated violence.
"It’s going to be used in airsoft. Just for the weight, [for] now," he said. "And conveniently, if the world feels like coming to an end, I guess I’ll be set. But I don’t think that’s going to be an issue. I’m not worried about that."
Body armor has become a common uniform at far-right rallies in Arizona and across the country.
"Are you worried about it being used for political violence?" asked ABC15's Zach Crenshaw.
"I would pray to God that they would never do that," replied Prest.
"I don’t do this to get people to arm up and do stupid things with the government. Like I said, I swore an oath to defend the Constitution versus all enemies foreign and domestic. And if someone is going to try and pull a military coup - that’s domestic terrorism. I don’t play those games."
Most Americans hope "those games" are done all together - but if sales and online extremism are any indications they may be just beginning.
Prest's operation is completely legal. There are few laws in Arizona surrounding body armor.
The only restrictions are that convicted felons are not allowed to own any, and it is an additional charge to be wearing body armor in the commission of a crime.