February 27, 2018 (reprinted from abc7news.com)
The images of students fleeing the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida are frightening. It is a vivid reminder of the terror a gunman can wreak on a school campus and it has many parents asking what can they do to protect their kids? Are bulletproof backpacks the answer? Across the country and the Bay Area, parents are still reeling from the terrifying scene in Florida. A lone gunman. 17 dead. 14 wounded. Thousands of young lives tainted by terror.
Since the shooting, bulletproof backpacks have been selling out across the country. With names like BulletBlocker and Guard Dog – parents are snapping them up. “I guess that’s just the harsh reality of the world we live in today,” said parent Nick Barnett. Barnett wanted one, but they were sold out. He says he wanted to do something to protect his two high school-aged kids. He settled for bulletproof plates to put inside their backpacks, instead.
Across the country, stores that sell the backpacks are selling out. In a Houston shop, they usually sell one or two bulletproof bags a month. They have completely sold out since the Parkland shootings. The BulletBlocker looks like any other backpack, but the back panel is made of Kevlar. It weighs about four pounds and sells for about $200. It comes with certification by the National Institute of Justice, stating that it withstood 10 shots from just over eight feet from a 44 and nine-millimeter gun – without penetration.
Jeffrey Kimball is a former police officer and firearms instructor. He tested the backpack to see how it would hold up. First he shot the backpack with a nine millimeter Glock, using common ammunition. The backpack stopped it. “The plate that is in here is rated for pistols, it’s not necessarily rated for rifles.” Said Kimball. An AR15 rifle was the weapon used earlier this month in the parkland school shooting. Those bullets went right through the backpack.
Kimball said, “This is a type of soft body armor like police officers would wear, this is not rifle rated just like what police wear is not rifle rated.” A closer examination of the plate shows the difference in the damage, the AR-15 shredded the bulletproof plate. The armor necessary to stop a rifle would need to be much thicker and up to 10 pounds heavier.
ABC7 News security consultant Steve Gomez was with the FBI SWAT Team. “SWAT officers tend to have a trauma plate that’s about six to eight inches by six to eight inches. I don’t think a child would need that large of a trauma plate but then it’s a question of where are they going to hold that backpack if there’s a shooting and they’re trying to protect themselves,” said Gomez.
He says there’s no downside to a bulletproof backpack even if it doesn’t guarantee physical safety. “Right now students are afraid and you want them to feel confident that they have something to protect themselves until police show up or their parents pick them up and they have that control over their own survival,” said Gomez
For Nick Barnett, that dad who was shopping for a backpack, he believes piece of mind is worth the price. “You definitely can’t put a price on your child’s life,” said Barnett.
Written and Produced by Ken Miguel