In today’s American dystopia, we’re here to talk about back-to-school shopping. After a white supremacist murdered 22 people and injured dozens of others while families did back-to-school shopping at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, people across the nation are sending their kids back to school with an item that, at this point, feels shamefully American. What is it? Bulletproof backpacks.
And these backpacks aren’t fringe buys, either. As reported by CNN, three major producers of these backpacks, Bullet Blocker, TuffyPacks, and Guard Dog Security, all report “a significant uptick [in sales] in the aftermath of mass shootings.”
“We always see spikes in sales in the days or weeks after shootings,” Steve Naremore, the CEO of TuffyPacks told CNN. TuffyPacks saw an increase of 300% since the two mass shootings.
This actually isn’t the first time this surge has happened. After the shooting in Parkland, Florida, last year, there was a similar trend. And if you’re wondering when these companies cropped up, that story also ties into America’s disturbing history of school shootings. Guard Dog Security, for example, began selling their bulletproof backpack after Sandy Hook in 2013.
You might be wondering: Do these backpacks actually work? Sort of. There’s not a lot of empirical evidence either way. In an interview with The New York Times, Yasir Sheikh of Guard Dog said the backpack would be less effective against a semi-automatic. Instead, they offer what’s described by the National Institute Justice as Level III-A protection, which means they can withstand shotgun ammunition, 9-mm, and .44 magnum. He also explained that while the backpacks may be marketed as “bulletproof” or “bullet-resistant,” there’s no actual difference in quality. It just comes down to the store.
Of course, given that parents and guardians across the nation are terrified, it’s not surprising that people are buying whatever they can get that gives them a small comfort. It’s also worth pointing out that at a price point ranging between $100 and $500, low-income students are going to have a hard, hard time getting their hands on these sort of backpacks. In an age where many Americans don’t have $400 in the bank to cover an emergency, it’s safe to say that many parents aren’t able to add an extra $500 to their back-to-school shopping budget, especially if they have more than one child.
Some brands offer removable inserts, which could be useful if your child will outgrow their current backpack. Some brands also sell “bulletproof” laptop cases and bigger, heavier backpacks intended for adults. These backpacks, which you can find at major retailers like Bed Bath & Beyond, even come in a size designed for kindergarteners, called the “Junior Pack.” Haunting.