It's that time of year again — back to school shopping — and what is besides pencils, binders and notebooks the hottest item parents will send their children to school with? For multiple years running it's bulletproof backpacks.
According to NBC's Today sales are up 200 to 300 percent nationwide after the latest mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio. American companies cite heightened demand from parents especially as the two senseless tragedies within 24 hours of each other which left 31 dead gripped headlines just before the start of school.
"We've definitely seen a spike over the past week or so in sales and that could be attributed to back to school but it could be attributed to some of the national events that are happening as well," said Yasir Sheikh, founder and president of Skyline USA, which sells a variety of defense gear and recently began offering bullet-resistant backpacks.
Media reports also suggest a rise in the number of 'active shooter drills' each year, which has now become commonplace in most schools — something which the older generation didn't experience — as a major factor in increased sales:
Three such companies, Bullet Blocker, TuffyPacks, and Guard Dog Security all said “they saw a significant uptick in the aftermath of mass shootings” according to CNN.
The head of Houston-based TuffyPacks, Steve Naremore, said the frequency of such drills has led to greater awareness of the various protective technologies available. While his company sells backpacks made with bullet-resistant material, the hot seller remains the more affordable backpacks made with 'ballistic shield' inserts.
The company touts, "The ballistic shields when inserted into backpacks, briefcases or computer bags will provide the highest level of protection currently available as lightweight concealable body armor." Naremore said the backpacks could make all the difference between "lethal versus non lethal" injuries.
“We always see spikes in sales in the days or weeks after shootings,” Naremore told CNN, citing an increase of 300% alone in the past week.
Prices for the backpacks range anywhere from $150 to $500 plus, depending on whether the product includes the more expensive bullet-resistant material or the cheaper shield insert.
However, the products aren't perfect given they may not defend against all bullets or gun types. CNN described the popular Guard Dog backpack as withstanding handguns and even shotguns, but not assault rifles:
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.
Guard Dog's backpacks offer Level IIIA protection, a National Institute of Justice standard that means they were tested to withstand 9-mm, .44 magnum and shotgun ammunition. They're not built to protect against the ammunition of rifles or assault weapons.
The manufacturers are even coming out with preschooler size bulletproof backpacks, as well as ones decorated with cartoons and Disney characters.
One mom cited in CNN's report addressed the rise in numbers of children wearing the backpacks: "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."