Bulletproof Backpacks; the Newest Quick Fix for Gun Violence at Schools?

By: Abigail Juknavorian – Sept. 2018

civilian-one-bulletproof-backpack-1Two hundred dollars; that’s the average price for the newest back to school accessory. What kind of accessory could be that expensive?

Bulletproof backpacks. Following the deadly shooting at a high school in Parkland Florida, the demand to keep children safe and protected in school is higher than ever. According to an article written for MONEY, Joe Curran (the founder of Massachusetts-based bulletproof equipment maker BulletBlocker) estimates the sales of these bags have gone up between 200%-300%, with a 30% overall production increase.

While that all sounds interesting on the surface the questions that still remain in my mind are – how effective are these products, and is this just another band-aid style approach to tackling gun violence at schools? As a young student going back to school, one of my favorite things to do was to buy a brand-new backpack. Like most kids, I loved being able to pick one with fun patterns and colors, or the latest trends that I could show off to all my friends on the first day of school. Never in a million years would I think to have a backpack that would play a key role in saving my own life. In terms of effectiveness, most of these bags are only able to protect bullets from pistols and handguns. According to MONEY, the backpacks are potentially becoming less and less useful since the AR-15 continues to be the weapon of choice for many mass shootings.

There are many methods that our schools utilize in an attempt to keep gun violence out of their communities. Here in Massachusetts, as well as many other states, we use something called an ALICE drill. ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. That is the five step training platform that founder Greg Crane created. Personally I have done more ALICE drills in my school career than I can count and honestly, I do believe that these drills can be very beneficial. However not once in this training program was there any mention of products like a bulletproof backpack. Maybe because bulletproof backpacks are not a solution? Instead, they are a band aid for an open wound.

On June 5, 2018, St. Cornelius middle school in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania gifted their eighth grade graduates a “good luck in high school” present. What was this present? A bulletproof Safe Shield(™) insert for their backpacks. David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland school shooting responded on Twitter with this tweet, “To my fellow young people, we will not let this be our kids’ graduation present.” Personally, I couldn’t agree more. What kind of statement are we making to our kids with this “solution”? It’s almost like were telling them that they’re going to be involved in a shooting at some time so they might as well be prepared. Is this really our new normal?

Waking up every day for school and wondering if today’s the day where I’ll be forced to run out of my school with my hands in the air fearing for the safety of myself and those I love is daunting to say the least.

As we kick off the 2018-2019 school year I implore each of us to ask ourselves, “Why do our children have to live this way and what can be done to put a stop to it for good this time?”