After the recent mass shooting at South Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were killed, more parents are sending their children to school with packed lunches, their homework and, heart-rendingly, bulletproof backpacks. The protective gear might have fun prints that kids favor, but what has gotten parents spending anywhere from $190 to $490 is the possibility that it could save their child's life.
Multiple companies behind these backpacks and shields have reported a surge in sales. One of the major brands, Bullet Blocker, reported a 30 percent increase in sales. Bullet Blocker started when Joe Curran was worried about his two kids after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado. It wouldn't be until eight years and several school shootings later that the former Army Ranger would have the resources to launch his Massachusetts-based company.
Guard Dog Security, based in Florida, started selling bulletproof backpacks after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut. Yasir Sheikh, president of Guard Dog Security, told the Cut that spikes in sales tend to happen after a mass shooting.
Companies reportedly don't have to advertise much, as the products tend to go viral.
The day after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, "Real Housewives of Atlanta" star and mom Kim Zolciak-Biermann posted an Instagram photo of a Guard Dog Security backpack sold on Amazon and commented that it was "better than not having anything at all."
Other brands offer a bulletproof insert that you could slip into the laptop slot. Matt White, director of marketing for Shotstop Ballistics, told ABC News 5 Cleveland that "the company has seen a 100 to 200 percent increase" in response to the shooting. The shields, which cost $110, come in hard or soft designs.
In November, a school in Florida sold $120 inserts produced by Applied Fiber Concepts that got parents talking.
But body armor experts at companies like Buffalo Armory LLC, which produces armored products to protect police and EMS crews, warn that while the backpacks may stop a pistol shot (Bullet Blocker, for instance, says its tested backpacks can stop "a .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, 9mm, .45 caliber hollow point ammunition and more"), the backpacks currently being sold can't stop a high-velocity bullets like those from an AR-15, the semi-automatic that has become the weapon of choice for recent mass shooters.
Frustrated parents also argue that arming children with bulletproof accessories at school is just a Band-Aid solution to a larger problem, as well as a burden that shouldn't be placed (literally) on kids' shoulders.