Back-to-school shopping lists increasingly include a somber and pricey remember that mass shootings are a part of life — on campus and elsewhere — in the U.S.
Demand for bullet-resistant backpacks rose after last year’s high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, with stores reportedly selling out of the backpacks, which can run from $100 to $500. Already on sale for this year’s school season at major retailers including Office Depot and OfficeMax, this past weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, furthered interest in the products.
A Texas company that caters to survivalists said orders for bullet-resistant backpacks have soared. “Our baseline is 100 units a month, and we sold 300 units just over the last few days,” Roman Zrazhevskiy with Austin-based ReadyToGoSurvival.com told the Houston Chronicle.
The Houston-based maker of Tuffypacks reported a 200% sales spike over the past weekend for its $129 bulletproof inserts for children’s backpacks.
Personal-defense company ArmorMe earlier this year began offering bullet-resistant backpacks that can be unfolded into a larger covering. Touted for use as “a shield to stop a knife, bullets from a pistol or from other light weapons,” the company run by a former Israeli commando, Gabi Siboni, said that even with heavier ammunition, its backpack would “significantly increase survival odds.”
Siboni pointed to the latest mass killings in a press release issued on Monday, saying he wanted to remind parents and college students of security options.
“We built this backpack to address the daily reality of student life. We wanted a pack that was stylish, and light and comfortable could carry a laptop and would last multiple academic years. At the same time, we built this backpack to withstand gunshots,” Siboni stated.
While hardly commonplace in schoolyards, bullet-resistant backpacks have been on the market for years, with a company called Guard Dog Security debuting them shortly after the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in 2012. It recently came out with an under-$100 backpack and sells them at retailers including Kmart.
Walmart sells bullet-resistant backpacks by both ArmorMe and Guard Dog, along with firearms and ammunition to those 21 and older. One of its stores was the scene of a gunman’s rampage this past weekend that killed 22 people in El Paso.
The backpacks have also been raised in the broader debate over gun violence in the U.S., with Senator Kamala Harris of California, a Democratic presidential candidate, bringing them up on social media.
“Parents shouldn’t have to buy a bulletproof backpack for their child just to keep them safe in school,” she tweeted in July, before this past weekend’s latest shootings. “This shouldn’t be normal.”