Body armour is meant to be worn by soldiers and cops -- not criminals and gangsters, Solicitor General Kash Heed said Tuesday as he introduced legislation that would impose restrictions on their purchase.

Under the proposed legislation, all businesses who sell body armour would be required to be licensed by the province. Buyers would also have to obtain permits that prove a reasonable need for the armour and be required to undergo a criminal background check.

The bill defines "body armour" as a "garment or item designed, intended or adapted for the purpose of protecting the body from projectiles discharged from a firearm," or "a prescribed garment or item."

Brent Shepherd, a spokesman for the Solicitor General, told Tuesday that the province is still working on defining what a "prescribed garment or item" actually is.

Individuals who don't follow the regulations could be fined $10,000 and be jailed for up to six months. Businesses who don't comply could be fined up to $100,000.

Workers whose jobs require them to wear body armour would be exempt from needing a permit. They include police officers, corrections officers, conservation officers, armoured car guards, security guards and private investigators.

In Vancouver, police have come across body armour more than 230 times since 2002 in the course of their gang investigations and street checks, Heed said.

Body armour was designed to protect people who put their lives at risk to protect others, he said.

"It was never intended to protect those who prey on others."

If the legislation passes, B.C. would be the first province to regulate body armour purchases. Businesses and individuals would have six months to comply.

The U.S. has similar measures already in place.

Heed's predecessor, John van Dongen, has said that criminals won't stop wearing body armour simply because it's illegal.

He had been responding to a proposal by NDP MLA Mike Farnworth to introduce a bill regulating body armour use.