Firms like Guard Canine Safety, TuffyPacks and Bullet Blocker are peddling bullet-resistant backpacks for kids in time for the back-to-school purchasing season. However critics argue they’re utilizing tragedy as a advertising alternative and exploiting dad and mom’ worst fears.
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Security is excessive on the minds of fogeys, particularly after two back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio that left 31 individuals lifeless.
Yasir Sheikh, founder and president of Skyline USA, which makes Guard Canine Safety merchandise like pepper spray and stun weapons, stated he began providing smaller bullet-resistant backpacks known as ProShield Scout catering to kids final yr.
“Instances have modified,” stated Sheikh, noting the merchandise could be very common and bought out a number of instances after the 2018 Parkland, Florida, college capturing that left 17 individuals lifeless. “Our product is in response to that. It is a unhappy actuality.”
Steve Naremore based Houston-based TuffyPacks in late 2015 after his daughter, a fourth-grade trainer, advised him in regards to the frequency of lively capturing drills for her college students. His firm produces some bullet-resistant backpacks however the bulk of his enterprise is in detachable ballistic shields which can be inserted in backpacks.
Naremore says his backpacks may very well be the distinction between struggling “deadly versus non deadly” accidents.
“It acts as a defensive protect, “stated Naremore, noting gross sales of the shields tripled within the days after the mass capturing at a Walmart retailer in El Paso final week that killed at the very least 22 individuals.
However some dad and mom query the motives behind such firms.
“The one individuals having fun with it are the individuals promoting the backpacks,” says Ponnell Scroggins of Milwaukee, a father of six kids, ages three to 14. “They’re making loads of cash proper now. And so they’re doing it off of one thing that was very unlucky.”
TuffyPacks markets its merchandise on its web site with mass shootings in thoughts: “Are you and your loved ones protected within the occasion of a faculty or office capturing? Be ready for the worst state of affairs with the business’s greatest ballistic shields!”
And its backpacks do not come low-cost. TuffyPacks’ shields vary in value from $129 to $149. Skyline’s ProShield Scout backpacks are priced at $119, though it is lower than the grownup model that tops at $199.
Some additionally solid doubt on the backpacks’ security and the way a lot they’ll actually defend kids.
Each Guard Canine Safety and TuffyPacks declare their merchandise are examined in unbiased labs according to the requirements for the Nationwide Institute of Justice and meets the necessities for a Stage IIIA ranking. Which means the shields can thwart a 9-millimeter handgun and a .44 magnum. Naremour says it is like carrying a police vest.
However the Nationwide Institute of Justice — the analysis, improvement and analysis arm of the Division of Justice that comes up with the ranking — has itself by no means carried out checks on these merchandise or licensed them and subsequently can not vouch for them.
“Advertising and marketing that claims NIJ testing or certification for such merchandise is fake,” stated Mollie Timmons, a Justice Division spokeswoman.
The backpacks additionally do not defend towards military-style weapons, which have been utilized in a number of mass shootings together with Parkland in addition to Sandy Hook Elementary Faculty in Connecticut, through which a gunman killed 20 kids and 6 educators in 2012. Sandy Hook stays the deadliest mass capturing at both a highschool or grade college in U.S. historical past.
Greg Shaffer, a former FBI agent and an professional in home terrorism, notes that almost all of lively shooters use handguns. Nonetheless, bullet-resistant backpacks will not be efficient as a result of kids typically have to go away their backpacks in cubbies in homeroom so they would not have them with them if there have been an lively shooter. Not many kids are shot and killed going and coming to high school, he added.
“I simply do not assume that for the cash and the additional weight that it’s way more efficient in defending youngsters,” he stated.
For probably the most half, main retailers like Walmart and Goal appear to be staying away from the backpacks. Each discounters stated they do not promote them however declined to remark additional.
An Amazon spokeswoman stated it would not promote bullet-resistant backpacks both and pointed to its coverage that bans promoting physique armor and any product that features bulletproof or ballistic helmets and clothes.
In the meantime, Workplace Depot, Inc. carries Guard Canine Safety merchandise in choose Workplace Depot and OfficeMax retail shops throughout the U.S. in addition to on-line whereas Homedepot.com carries ProShield backpacks. The majority of the promoting, nevertheless, appears to be from small unbiased on-line retailers like Bulletproofzone.com.
“Massive chains are hesitant to hold them due to the legal responsibility subject,” stated Craig Johnson, president of Buyer Development Companions, a retail consulting agency. “I do not see it as a mainstream sort of product.”
Earlier this week, Walt Disney Co. demanded TuffyPacks to cease promoting bullet-resistant inserts that includes Disney princesses, Harry Potter and Avengers characters from its line.
“None of those merchandise have been licensed by Disney, and we’re demanding that these behind this cease utilizing our characters or our different mental property to advertise gross sales of their merchandise,” stated a Disney spokesperson in an emailed assertion to The Related Press.
Naremore says he has pulled the entire Disney-themed merchandise.
Instructional specialists say bullet-resistant backpacks usually are not the answer.
“Faculties must be secure sanctuaries the place youngsters can really feel safe, not hardened conflict zones the place they’re dressed like troopers making ready for battle,” stated Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Lecturers, the nation’s second largest trainer’s labor union, in an emailed assertion to The Related Press. “If retailers are going to promote these merchandise, they need to additionally step as much as demand actual, efficient options to gun violence, together with regulating harder laws on gun gross sales and buyback packages to assist get unlawful weapons off the streets.”
Nonetheless, the makers of bullet-resistant backpacks have tapped right into a concern that’s actual. And for fogeys feeling helpless and in search of a solution, the backpacks present them with one.
Marisol Rodriguez of Milwaukee stated she is contemplating shopping for one for her 13-year-old son.
“It should not have to come back to the promoting bulletproof backpacks,” she stated. “That simply goes to point out what sort of society we stay in immediately.”
AP Writers Martha Waggoner in Raleigh, N.C. and Carrie Antlfinger in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, contributed to this report.
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