Back-to-school shopping is looking a bit different for some parents this year. While pencils and markers are still must-haves — bulletproof backpacks have also been added into the back-to-school shopping mix.
In the United States, there have been 22 school shootings this year alone — and after the tragedy at Robb Elementary School in Uvlade, Texas — there’s been a spike in parents inquiring about and purchasing bulletproof backpacks and bulletproof inserts in an attempt to keep their kids safe when returning to school this year.
In Marietta, Georgia, independent emergency preparedness retailer — TruPrep Emergency Preparedness — have already sold out of their bulletproof shield inserts. “Some parents are going to buy gluten-free bread, and some are going to buy a bulletproof backpack,” employee of TruPrep, Amy Evans said.
The emergency preparedness retailer has been selling products like bulletproof backpacks for ten years and have not seen a slowdown in sales. “Some [customers] were parents, others were just concerned citizens. It was just a wide mix of people,” said employee Alex Walters of TruPrep Emergency Preparedness.
The bulletproof backpacks also come in a range of protection-levels. “On the inside of [the] backpack is soft armor,” Evans explained to Inside Edition. “They have different ratings as well so this is going to be a 3A. It is basically going to stop small pistol round or something like that ... It is not going to protect from a large rifle.”
This caveat may leave some parents concerned about the level of protection these backpacks can actually bring considering between 2009 and 2020, the five deadliest mass shooting incidents in the US all involved the use of assault weapons and/or high-capacity magazines: Las Vegas, Orlando, Newtown, Sutherland Springs, and El Paso.
If parents are looking for a bulletproof backpack that can stop a deadlier bullet, there are retailers out there who claim to supply that feature. Bulletproof Zone claims that if the protection level of the shield is rated as NIJ Level III or IV — the backpack could stop an AR-15 rifle.
TruPrep is not the only company seeing an uptick in bulletproof backpack sales. Julie McCuen, chief operating officer at Leatherback Gear, a bulletproof backpack manufacturer, said a spike in sales after a tragic event like a school shooting is nothing out of the ordinary. "People react and seek out something to make them feel safer after the fact," McCuen told Insider.
The surreal nature of these types of products being sold (and selling out) is not lost on retailers. Though the idea of a bulletproof backpack is heartbreaking and tragic, retailers like McCuen believe it is necessary.
"While we wish that this wasn't something we as parents needed to think about, recent history reveals that it is very much a threat to our children that we need to take seriously and make every attempt to be proactive about," McCuen said. "Just as we educate and prepare our children in school for what to do in the event of a fire, we now must do the same for an active shooter."
Former Texas police officer and sales representative for Bryna Technologies — another preparedness supply company, Joshua Schirard, agrees with this notion. “Is it horrible the fact that we have to offer this? Absolutely. But it’s a fact that we do,” he said.