For many people, the ‘back to school’ shop was a regular fixture of the summer holidays.
Whether you were someone who got excited by new stationery or not, the pre-school purchase of a new pencil case, pens, books, maybe even a new back pack, was as inevitable as forgetting what day of the week it was during the holiday.
However, for many parents and pupils, the feeling of going back to school comes with an extra, very real, sense of dread.
As mass shootings persist as an all too regular occurrence in the USA, the demand for bulletproof backpacks is rapidly increasing, as parents look for anything they can to provide some semblance of security for their children as they go back to school.
Shootings such as those at Sandy Hook Elementary, Virginia Tech and Stoneman Douglas High have left the safety of schools irreparably in doubt. And now – in a bleak turn of events – a number of companies are marketing bulletproof backpacks to parents who simply want to protect their children.
As Igor Volsky, the director of gun-control advocacy group Guns Down America, told the New York Times:
It’s incredibly depressing. The market is trying to solve for a problem that our politicians have refused to solve.
Demand for the backpacks increased after last year’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, but the recent shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, has seen interest in bulletproof products surge once again.
No parent should have to think about buying their child a bulletproof backpack to keep them safe at school. Inaction on addressing the gun violence epidemic is unacceptable. We need to do something.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) April 5, 2019
One such bag, for example, is made by the personal-defense company ArmorMe, run by former Israeli commando Gabi Siboni. The bulletproof bag can apparently unfold into a larger, more defensive covering.
The backpack is designed first of all to be a very stylish and nice-looking backpack. And it has panels that protect you against bullets. It will increase your survival chances.
While another company, Guard Dog Security, has been selling bulletproof backpacks since shortly after the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. Yasir Sheikh, who runs the company, said: ‘It could be the difference between life and death.’
Armore me bullet-proof backpacks give you instant protection against random attacks. Unfortunately, we live in a world where in an emergency, your kids need instant protection from handgun attacks. ArmorMe is a versatile backpack that hides a hidden layer of solid Kevlar.Now available in 5 different colors and 2 different designs.Single Protection Panel Backpack NOW $179.99 [red $124.99 until 03.31.19]Double Protection Panel Backpack NOW $229.99 [red $179.99 until 03.31.19]SHOP NOW > https://www.armorme.com/shop
Posted by ArmorMe on Monday, March 11, 2019
Mollie Timmons, a spokesperson for the National Institute of Justice, which oversees the body armor used by law enforcement, told The New York Times they have no plans to test or certify these products.
Sheikh, however, said their backpack is still designed to meet the National Institute of Justice’s IIIA level of protection, which would make the bags resistant to shots from shotguns and handguns. Though Sheikh acknowledged the bags would be less effective at protecting people from semi-automatic weapons, such as those used at Sandy Hook.
— Emily Huffman (@emilyjhuffman) August 3, 2019
Reactions to the bulletproof bags have been understandably mixed, with some parents receptive to the idea, though others blame the manufacturers for profiting off fears of gun violence.
UNILAD spoke to LA resident John, who has a daughter about to return to high school, about the bags.
John is drawn to the concept, saying:
I think that they are a great idea based on a quick glance at prices on the internet. I would want to see some proof that they were effective before buying, but the one I saw was priced at about a $50-70 premium over a regular backpack so probably well worth it.
I mean, your kid is going to have a backpack at school anyway, and with the small, but terrifying, risk of something going down why not armor it?
I am not rushing out to buy one but will definitely be keeping my ear to the ground as to whether they work or not, and would seriously consider getting one if the price and effectiveness proved acceptable.
While protecting your kids at any cost will always be priority number one for parents, Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, suggested the companies were merely exploiting worried parents, as politicians were not doing enough to solve the real problem.
We’re asking children to stand up to gunmen because lawmakers are too afraid to stand up to the gun lobby. There isn’t a parent in this country that isn’t terrified. These companies are capitalizing on that.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.