With more than 20 school shootings so far in 2018, keeping your children safe in the classroom has become a familiar and difficult conversation for parents like Jennifer Rich.
“They do their drills at schools and they are aware. It’s a little nerve-wracking,” she said.
In addition to drills and heightened security, there’s one more line of defense parents can send their kids to school with: bulletproof backpacks.
Companies like BulletBlocker and Guard Dog Security usually see their backpack sales spike right after a mass shooting or act of violence. But this year, Guard Dog's president Yasir Sheikh said that accessibility and awareness is leading to more back to school purchases.
“People are making the decision to be proactive, to make the decision to be protected rather than just a response to some sort of event,” said Yasir Sheikh, president of Guard Dog Security.
Guard Dog started selling bulletproof bags online at major retailers such as Walmart, Home Depot and Office Max this year, and Sheikh said that they’re in the works to begin selling with Bed Bath & Beyond.
Rich first saw the backpacks on Facebook, and thought its mere existence was going too far.
“But now that I hear that it’s being sold locally, it’s become more … reality I guess,” she said. “Maybe this is something of our time now with our kids, that this is the new thing.”
The backpacks look and weigh similar to any other backpack, but the real question is, could they actually help save your child’s life?
Affiliate KNBC, in Los Angeles, tested it out. Consumer reporter Randy Mac brought a Guard Dog Pro Shield II to a gun range and had firearms instructor Scott Reitz shoot at it with two handguns and AR-15.
The 9mm and .45 caliber rounds were contained by the bag’s plate in the back, as advertised by Guard Dog, but the AR-15 round went straight through.
“Is it certified for AR caliber protection? No. But could it lessen the impact, could it be the difference between life and death? Possibly,” Sheikh said.
Sheikh said the bags have Level III-A certification from a National Institute of Justice accredited lab, which only covers protection from handguns.
NIJ spokeswoman Kelly Laco said the NIJ themselves have never tested nor certified ballistic items that aren’t body armor for law enforcement.
In order to withstand higher caliber rifles, they’d need Level IV certification, which would require harder and heavier ceramic plates according to Sheikh.
“We're going to continue researching, if we do find some sort of solution that addresses the practicality of a level four protection, then we'll certainly entertain it. But right now, our goal is to have a practical product,” he said.
BulletBlocker's president, Joe Curran, has been selling his backpacks since 2007, and provides other bulletproof school supplies for students such as notebooks and binders, in case a classroom does not allow backpacks inside.
“Another example is our Clear Backpack, which is a product we started manufacturing to meet the needs of customers who live in school districts where clear bags are mandatory for security purposes,” he said.
Regardless, Rich said she’d rather not have to take security precautions before sending her child to school.
“I mean that’s their safe place,” she said. “To let them know they’d have to carry a backpack that would save them from something like that, it’s scary.”
The Guard Dog backpacks range from $130 to $180, and the Bullet Blocker bags price at $200 and up. Sheikh said that 20 percent of their proceeds will be donated to the Make Our Schools Safe organization.