Preparing for active shooter situations in schools is nothing new for children in the US. Does the introduction of bulletproof backpacks in the market mitigate this threat? Or are we normalizing school shootings?
Why do we need bullet proof backpacks?
From Virginia Tech to Sandy Hook, active shooters often select a target populated with unprotected civilians to inflict as much damage as possible. Looking at it from any angle, schools are one of the most vulnerable targets.
In this climate of fear and uncertainty, equipping their children with bullet-resistant backpacks offers parents some solace in the face of peril.
“The world’s safest backpacks”
One such product is manufactured and sold by the brand Leatherback Gear for $299. Designed by a former secret-service agent, this backpack aims to offer protection to those who cannot wear protective vests on a regular basis.
In the company’s words, it is “a personal protection system designed for the most important thing you’ll ever put in your backpack today…you.”
More than a backpack
The backpack itself comes with two hidden panels designed to hold the preferred level of armor inside. With just one pull of a zipper, it separates into two parts to form a bullet-resistant vest. The brand also sells armor inserts (NIJ Certified Level IIIA to IV) on their website.
Moreover, shoulder straps may include built-in tourniquets, providing an added layer of protection. As a bonus, carrying books in the backpack can also increase its level of protection.
What do parents think?
Harvey T – who bought this backpack for his son to take to school – provided an interesting testimonial on the website. In it, he compared a bulletproof backpack to a fire-extinguisher. “I would rather have one and never need it than need one and never have it.”
In an interview with ABC news, another parent, Demitric Boykin, spoke to a similar effect.
“I think that there are other ways to protect your child. I just felt like this was the best thing for mine,” Boykin said. “It felt like this was the easiest thing that I could do to keep my arm around her when I couldn’t keep my arm around her.”
An option, not a solution
The increasing popularity of bulletproof children’s backpacks raises important ethical questions. In equipping children with military grade body armor, are we equating the school with a warzone? Are we unwittingly normalizing gun violence in schools?
Ladd Everitt, the director of communications for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence answered some of these questions in an interview in 2013. According to him, the sale of bulletproof backpacks was a “disturbing sign of how gun violence is becoming the norm.”
“The fact that these products even exist,” Everitt said, “demonstrates that we have lost sight of the real issue.”
A long way to go
It may seem that there is no ‘right answer’ in this nearly dystopian situation. However, real life is never black-and-white and there is rarely a flawless solution to be found.
In an increasingly dangerous and unpredictable world, any product that offers children protection from it should not be written off so easily. While bulletproof backpacks are not a viable long-term solution, they spark discussions around a sensitive topic and bring to light the “real issue”.
In other words, we have a long way to go but, by remembering to ask the difficult questions, this could be a step in the right direction.