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Companies hope 'bulletproof backpacks' will save lives; others have concerns

Posted at 7:20 PM, Jul 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-31 20:27:51-04

KILLEEN, TX — According to everytownresearch.org, there were at least 57 incidents of gunfire on school grounds nation-wide so far this year, resulting in 10 deaths, including three suicides, and 35 injuries.

Compare that to 2017, when they calculated at least 67 incidents of gunfire on school grounds during the entire year, and 104 just last year.

Chelsea Roseman, senior criminal justice major and mom of one, said active shooter situations, especially in schools, are becoming too common. "It's such a prevalent thing in our society right now,” said Roseman.

Companies offering school supplies, such as Office Max, are taking note and have begun to add "bulletproof backpacks" to their inventories. "This backpack, if you have it, I think it's also a constant reminder... I think that would just show that they're [active shooters] getting the best of everyone," said Roseman.

If you look online, the majority of the bulletproof backpacks offer high level protection from most handguns. We decided to get some more insight over the phone with the founder of TuffyPacks.

"We have a Level IIIA certification,” said Steve Naremore, founder and CEO of TuffyPacks. “We manufacture soft panels which are Level IIIA, which means that they will stop virtually any handgun around.”

He added, they will not stop an assault rifle. “Our material, our panels are essentially what a police officer wears on a daily basis, okay. And those vests that they wear, they don't stop assault rifles either,” said Naremore.

Some people believe it is not enough. "if you look at the school shooting reports: you see AK-47s, you see AR-15s, you see assault rifles. Those are generally a higher magazine and higher power weapons,” said Paul York, associate dean for student affairs and deputy Title IX coordinator, A&M Central Texas.

Naremore explained, technologically it would not work. "In order to stop an assault rifle round, you're going to have to have either a ceramic or a ceramic and metal or composite plate,” said Naremore. “They're very heavy. They're nine or 10 pounds easily. And the coverage area is much smaller.”

We decided to reach out to an expert. Johnny Price travels across Central Texas with BIG IRON Handgun License Training teaching active shooter training classes. We were able to video chat with him in between sessions.

“Yes, the ARs and the semi-automatic rifles have done a lot more of the damage, but on a day to day when you hear about a shooting here and there… many of those are pistols,” said Price, who is a Texas DPS School Certified School Safety Officer. “Because hand guns are so much easier to get into places than a rifle is, but it still could slow it down. It could deflect it.”

And while some people are purchasing these bulletproof backpacks, schools are working to stop the bullets from being fired at all.

"You're walking down the street, and you may see this could potentially help you when you get mugged. But generally in a school shooting setting, it's not something we're going to see as being very helpful,” said York. “So we're going to see things like sharing information and just being more aware and caring for others on campus as more helpful than something like this."

"Really just think, just talking to your, like, kid, and parents talking having a conversation, because I mean that's the only way," said Roseman.

Meanwhile, Price added, having the tool is better than nothing.

"If it could save one life, it's worth it. But the biggest thing, it's a shame we've gotten into a society or a world I should say, where it's even thought as a necessity," said Price.

The price on the bulletproof backpacks typically ranges from around $100 to upwards of $300. For those who already have a bag ready for use, most of the companies selling the bulletproof backpacks also make different sized bulletproof inserts that can be popped in and out of backpacks.