More parents are buying bullet-resistant backpacks to help keep kids protected after shootings



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Talking about acts of violence like mass shootings with your children is not easy. If you have to have that difficult talk, remember the four S’s. USA TODAY

Parents would absolutely shield their child from gunfire if they could. When they can’t be around their kids, like when they go to school, apparently parents buy bullet-resistant backpacks to help keep their loved ones protected. 

Manufactures of bullet-resistant backpacks and backpack inserts reported a surge in popularity after the deadly shootings last week at an El Paso, Texas Walmart and Dayton, Ohio entertainment center.

“Anyone who sells anything like this will tell you they see a spike after a mass shooting,” founder and CEO Steve Naremore of TuffyPacks told USA TODAY. 

“It’s a level of protection, like a fire extinguisher for your home,” he said. “About 98 percent of our (shield) sales are parents. I hope I never get a letter saying your shield saved my kid’s life.”

Naremore estimates that sales of the $130 removal, backpack inserts that protect against rounds of handgun fire jumped in stores and on the website between 300 and 500 percent. 

“A lot of parents go, ‘This is a great product and great idea’ and the other half go, ‘What a sad world that we have to think about this for our children,'” Naremore said of his Houston-based company. 

This school year, TuffyPacks rolled out panels themed with Disney princesses, Avengers and Harry Potter, but they were pulled after Disney and Warner Brothers objected to the fabric supplier’s use of the material, Naremore said.

More: Talking to kids about El Paso, Dayton shootings? Use the 4 S’s to discuss cruel violence

‘Protection in Session’

Although parents have been buying bullet-resistant backpacks from Guard Dog Security products for years, this is the first year that the Florida-based company has offered a specific backpack for school-aged children. The Guard Dog ProShield Scout backpack is sold in teal, pink and black and sold at Office Max/Office Depot and Bed, Bath & Beyond stores and online retailers including Amazon for $99-$120.

The backpacks have been marketed near signs that say, “Protection in session.”  

Demand is so high that they have already sold out a few times, said Yasir Sheikh, president and founder of Skyline USA, which makes Guard Dog products.

Not only is it back-to-school shopping season, but the shootings also jump-started parents’ awareness about school safety, Sheikh told USA TODAY.

“There’s a heightened level of awareness,” he said. “I liken it to this: There’s a greater chance of people buying a security system if there is a break-in in your neighborhood.”

Bullet Blocker, which sells what it categorizes as bulletproof backpacks to independent specialty retailers and on its website, said its backpacks and inserts have increased 200 percent over the past few years.

Do bulletproof backpacks work?

Both Bullet Blocker and ProShield Scout are purported to comply with Level IIIA standards for body armor, established by the National Institute of Justice. (However, the NIJ has never tested nor certified ballistic items “other than body armor for law enforcement.“)

Level IIIA compliance means the material is “tested to stop .357 SIG and .44 Magnum ammunition fired from longer barrel handguns. No rifle ammunition protection,” according to the National Institute of Justice. That means the backpacks should have enough stopping power to repel most handgun bullets, but would prove ineffective in stopping rifle or assault-type weapons, such as the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle used in the Florida Parkland shooting in February 2018.

Skyline of Pro ProShield Scout backpack partners with an organization that offered a portion of the proceeds of its other backpacks sold to Parkland shooting victims until this year. Now it partners with Make Our Schools Safe, a non-profit started by a mom who lost her 14-year-old daughter in the Parkland shooting.

Matthew Mayer, a professor in Rutgers University’s education department who studies school shootings, said parents’ hope would be better placed in school communities, The public letter, which referenced research, was signed by thousands of experts in school safety and mental health. 

Neither TuffyPacks nor Guard Dog Security executives offer their backpacks or shields as solutions. Rather, they say packs and shields act as buffers to dangerous, unpredictable individuals who would do them harm. 

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