Family & Parenting

What Parents Need To Know About Bulletproof Backpacks

Parents, this is an important read.

Unlike standard school supplies, sales of bulletproof backpacks spike at seemingly random times throughout the year. Their sales are far from random, though. Bulletproof backpack sales consistently soar following school shootings, as concerned parents seek added security for their children.

Their concerns are valid. From December 2012 to February 2018, more than 400 people were shot in nearly 250 school shootings. According to Gun Violence Archive, which is a “not for profit corporation formed in 2013 to provide online public access to accurate information about gun-related violence,” there have been about five school shootings each month since 2012.

Florida Town Of Parkland In Mourning, After Shooting At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Kills 17
Getty Images | Joe Raedle

It was the mass shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007 that inspired the first bulletproof backpack. A father and former Army Ranger, Joe Curran, created My Childs Pack to protect his own children. His invention took off and his company, Bullet Blocker, has expanded to offer more safety solutions for parents like him. “We’ve seen a 200-300 percent sales increase in backpack and backpack insert sales since [the Parkland, Florida school shooting in February] and a 30 percent increase for our products overall,” Curran told Time this year.

Since then, more manufacturers have created bulletproof backpacks and other accessories designed to help protect children and give parents peace of mind.

Made to Protect

Most companies construct bulletproof backpacks lined with a Kevlar-like material. This material is similar to a soft body armor made to protect a wearer against shots from most handguns. However, the National Institute of Justice — the research, development, and evaluation agency of the Department of Justice (NIJ) — does not test bulletproof backpacks and all claims are based on each manufacturer’s tests.

Aside from Bullet Blocker, other top brands with similar grades of protection include Guard Dog Security, Talos Ballistics and TuffyPacks. A simple search for “bulletproof backpack” in Google Shopping will show you many options from different brands and stores.

Bullet Blocker

The safety technology of bulletproof backpacks comes with a hefty price tag. A new bulletproof backpack costs anywhere from $150 to $500. You can purchase them directly from manufacturers online as well as from some retailers where you’d buy standard school supplies.

You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a whole new backpack to add protection for your children. Some companies, like Hardwire and Tuffy Packs also sell bullet-resistant inserts to fortify a regular backpack. In fact, these inserts can provide the same level of protection as a new bulletproof backpack. These currently start at $89.

Understand the Limitations

Bulletproof backpacks do have limitations. Most models available now are not 100-percent bullet proof. In general, they can only protect against bullets from pistols and handguns. Those graded at level III-A won’t stop bullets from rifles, which are commonly used in mass shootings. Each model from Bullet Blocker includes details about tests with specific firearms and bullets.

bulletproof backpack photo
Getty Images | George Frey

While the growing industry shows many parents are sold on bulletproof backpacks, many school safety experts and firearms experts are not. In fact, some say the backpacks only work well when positioned exactly right. The backpacks do hold up in shooting range tests, however, in a stressful active-shooter situation children may not think clearly enough or hold the backpack in the exact way so it will protect them.

Other skeptics think the backpacks lull parents into a false sense of security. And still others suggest it instills unnecessary fear in children. The backpacks could make school feel like a war zone instead of a safe learning environment.

If you do buy a bulletproof backpack, you’ll want to treat it with extra care. The protective material is more susceptible to heat and sunlight. Leaving one in the sun or high heat can compromise the material and make it ineffective. When treated properly, they have a lifespan of about five years.