Instead of letting their children choose a plastic backpack covered in Hello Kitty or Spider-Man, some parents are purchasing bags that double as shields in case kids get caught in gunfire.
The retailers said backpack sales spike during the back-to-school season, and all three said they they saw a significant uptick in the aftermath of mass shootings.
Bulletproof backpacks are a ‘consumer favorite’
Joe Curran founded Bullet Blocker 12 years ago after a shooting at Virginia Tech killed 33 people.
Sales have increased 200% since the mass shootings last weekend, Curran said.
Demand increased after Parkland
They’re marketed as “bulletproof” or “bullet-resistant,” depending on the store, but the two are synonymous, he said. The bags retail for between $119.99 and $299.99.
Sheikh couldn’t draw a direct correlation between mass shootings and sales increases, but he said there was a significant rise in demand after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting last year.
“What we’re finding is, sometimes, events trigger heightened awareness of the product,” he said.
The Florida company builds and designs its bulletproof backpacks and tests them at a facility accredited by the National Institute of Justice, a research branch of the Department of Justice.
Lightweight inserts double as shields from bullets
Steve Naremore, CEO of TuffyPacks, said he launched the company in 2015 after his daughter, who teaches fourth grade, told him how frequently her school required her to perform active shooter drills with her students.
Although the company sells some retrofitted backpacks, it specializes in lightweight, removable ballistic shields.
About 95% of the company’s customers are parents and grandparents who buy them for children, Naremore said.
“We always see spikes in sales in the days or weeks after shootings,” he said. TuffyPacks’ sales rose nearly 300% over the past week, according to Naremore.
There’s a mixed reaction from consumers
The weekend’s mass shootings are a painful reminder for parents
Gun violence is something she’s thought about fleetingly, she said, but the horror in El Paso and in Dayton, Ohio, brought it to the forefront, not just for her son but for her family.
“I dislike the additional level of anxiety that’s sort of randomly interjected into my life,” she said.
An uncomfortable truth
“There is the morbidity factor,” Naremore acknowledged of the product’s purpose.
The very existence of a bulletproof backpack forces parents confront an uncomfortable reality, but it’s a conversation many children are having in schools and an essential one for parents who want to protect them, Sheikh said.
“When I was in school, there was no such thing as active shooter drills,” he said. “But times have changed.”
Donahue’s son brought it up first. He came home from an active shooter drill in kindergarten and shared what he’d learned to do if a “bad guy comes to hurt him,” she said.
“He’s worried about things I never dreamed of,” she said. “It makes me sad — and angry.”
“It’s sort of incredible how this is impacting both my personal and professional life.”
“I think we’re both upset that this is the reality, but we feel it’s important to address the reality,” she said. “It’s not a guarantee, but it’s some measure we can take to feel just a little bit better about sticking him on that school bus every day.”