Education

‘Bulletproof’ backpacks sold in Manatee store. A new model was made for students

Are ‘bulletproof’ backpacks a way to protect your child?

As the school year fast approaches, parents may be looking at ways to possibly make their children more safe against gun violence.
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As the school year fast approaches, parents may be looking at ways to possibly make their children more safe against gun violence.

Parents have a lot to consider when shopping for a backpack.

Is there room for a water bottle? What about a laptop? Are the straps padded? Can it withstand gunfire?

Two backpacks are nestled between everyday products at the Office Depot on 14th Street West, in Bradenton, and each is sold with a message from Guard Dog Security. “Bulletproof backpack: Convenience and technology for today, safety and protection for tomorrow,” it reads.

The bullet-resistant bags range in price from $180 to $205, and they both tout protection against 9mm and .44 Magnum ammunition.

“Measuring 19 inches in height, this bulletproof backpack is ideal for youth, college students, travelers and professionals alike,” the company said on its website, describing one of the bags sold in Bradenton.

Bullet-resistant backpacks aren’t a recent invention, but Guard Dog Security gained national attention with this year’s release of the ProShield Scout, a product designed specifically for students. The bag sells for about $100, and it has the look and feel of a traditional bag.

It comes in black, pink and teal, and it weighs about 1 pound more than an average backpack. The extra weight comes from a thin layer of fiber within the bag, which gives it a bullet-resistant quality, said Yasir Sheikh, the company’s president.

“Think of it like a JanSport but it being bulletproof,” he said.

Though the new model was unavailable at local Office Depot stores on Monday, it was available on the store’s website.

Sheikh said Guard Dog Security began with pepper spray, stun guns and other personal security products about a decade ago. In 2013, less than one year after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, the company launched its bullet-resistant backpacks.

“There wasn’t a lot of demand for the product when we first introduced it, but it’s been a slowly increasing product,’ he said. “Now it’s gotten to the point where it is one of our core product lines.”

A gunman killed 17 staff and students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018. Last weekend, an assailant killed 22 people at a Walmart in Texas, and another gunman killed nine others in a downtown area of Dayton, Ohio.

The lightweight material in Guard Dog backpacks is not certified against the high-power rifles used in recent massacres throughout Florida and the country. Sheikh said his backpacks were rated against several types of handgun ammunition, using standards provided by the National Institute of Justice.

“I’ll be the first to tell you, this is not the all-encompassing solution,” he said. “This is just part of the solution.”

When asked if recent tragedies sparked an increase in sales, Sheikh said he “can’t draw a one-to-one correlation.” However, he said Guard Dog contributes a portion of backpack sales to Make Our Schools Safe, a nonprofit focused on improving the safety of students and teachers.

As a Florida resident with children who still attend school, Sheikh said the topic hits close to home.

“I think about what precautions we need to take for our kids going to school today,” he said. “There is an element of satisfaction, knowing this plays a part in that process. Even if it’s providing peace of mind, at the very minimum, then we feel like we’re doing our job.”

Paulette Disney shopped for school supplies with a few of her 11 grandchildren on Monday morning. Standing outside of the Office Depot in Bradenton, she said bullet-resistant backpacks were a welcome addition to local schools.

“With everything that’s been happening, I feel like the kids need some immediate protection,” she said.

Leaving the same store with her son, a local student, Jennifer Broxson described her initial reaction in two words: “Freaking insane.”

A backpack can only protect a small portion of the student’s body, and only against small ammunition, she said. Broxson viewed bullet-resistant backpacks as one of the many proposed solutions to school violence, among metal detectors and armed teachers, that continue to surprise and overwhelm.

“It’s hard to wrap my head around, that we’ve come to this point,” she said.

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