There have been more than seventy school shootings since Sandy Hook. Unfortunately, this climate of right-wingers’ refusal to care about dead children over their irrational love of firearms has created a market for items to protect children in the inevitable next school shooting.
From bulletproof blankets to devices designed to keep psychopaths with guns out of classrooms, the free market is offering solutions that Congress will not–which, unfortunately, do nothing to prevent bloodshed from happening in the first place.
Now, a former police officer has teamed up with her daughter to invent the latest product designed to offset Congress’ inaction: the bulletproof backpack. Christina Thomas and her daughter Kelsey Thomas-Gregorio have proudly introduced AttachaPack, a line of backpacks for children that come with bulletproof inserts–and don’t worry parents: They’re customizable!
“Our mission is to offer a range of innovative backpacks that can be personalized and enhanced in a way that excites kids and gives parents peace of mind,” they say on their web site.
Available with a variety of options, the packs sell for up to $70 and are designed to “give parents peace of mind.” However, school security experts doubt their effectiveness. Ken Trump, a Cleveland-based school safety consultant, told NBC that “It may be well-intended but it’s not well thought-out.” He added, “I would ask this question: If you need a bulletproof backpack, wouldn’t the child also need a bulletproof front pack and a helmet and a Captain America shield?”
“I have a vision of a classroom of kids running down a gym court playing basketball with their backpacks on,” Trump said. “And the ballistic whiteboard? Is the teacher going to tell 25 kids to line up behind at the right angle?”
Despite the low effectiveness for the money, each random act of violence is profitable. “We’ve been selling them all over the United States,” Steve Jurak of the San Diego firm Mighty Mojo said of LifePlate, a nearly $150 bulletproof backpack insert. “Whenever there is a blip, some random act of violence, we see a surge in sales.”
The University of Maryland Eastern Shore recently spent nearly $60,000 on 200 bulletproof whiteboards. “I heard a faculty member who had worked at Virginia Tech say yesterday that if investing $50,000 saves one life, it’s worth it,” college spokesman Bill Robinson said. “We understand it’s not the panacea, but it’s a tool in the toolbox of security.”
“It doesn’t replace locking the door but in the event that we’re breached at least I have something I can go after them with,” said George Tunis, chief executive of Hardwire, who makes the whiteboards.
Trump, however, voiced his doubts. “There’s feeling safer and then there’s actually being safer,” Trump said, adding, “In the past five years we’ve seen draconian cuts to school security and emergency planning programs.”
“Schools have limited resources and they ought to use that money very wisely, put it into an additional school psychologist or a school police officer, train your staff and work with first responders. The most valuable school security tools are invisible,” he pointed out.