The Florida school shooting that left 17 people dead has triggered a rise in the sales of bulletproof backpacks.
On Thursday, one day after former student Nikolas Cruz stormed Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., killing 17 people and injuring dozens more, Massachusetts-based company Bullet Blocker was inundated with orders for bulletproof backpacks, comprising a 30 percent spike in sales.
The concept for the company originated in 1999 by father of two Joe Curran, a self-described “helicopter dad” and former U.S. Army Ranger in Lowell, Mass. Curran became concerned about school security after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo., during which teens Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 students and injured 20 others.
But would be eight years and three more school shootings before Curran had the resources to go into business. “Virginia Tech was the final straw for me,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle, referring to Virginia Polytechnic student Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 people on the Blacksburg, Va., campus before committing suicide in 2007. “I started asking local schools for their security plans in the event of armed intruders and there weren’t any concrete plans, so I wanted to promote the idea of kids protecting themselves.”
Bullet Blocker sells 11 backpacks, ranging in price from $210 to $490, including “My Child’s Pack,” a $199 sack (on sale from $210) weighing 2 pounds and available in pink or blue.
The latter looks like a standard school bag but it’s lined with knife-and-bulletproof material called Kevlar that’s approved by the National Institute of Justice, an organization that sets body armor standards for law enforcement. Specifically, the fabric “traps and slows down” bullets shot from a .357 Magnum, a .44 Magnum, a 9mm handgun, and a .45 caliber weapon.
“Recently, a woman in Hollywood, Calif., bought one for every child she knows, and the wife of a New England Patriots player ordered three for each of her children,” says Curran. “The idea is that kids can hold it up as a shield.”
The company has an in-house team that sews the bags from scratch and also retrofits existing bags, accessories such as notebooks, iPad cases, and three-ring binders, as well as clothing. For example, Curran recently outfitted a slew of Gucci products — a leather diaper bag for $3,100, a duffle bag for $4,250, and a zip-up jacket for $3,200 — a teal Hermès Evelyne III purse for $5,225, an Armani suit for $5,895, and a Saint Laurent moto jacket for $6,450.
Bullet Blocker is one of several companies specializing in bulletproof kidswear, including the Florida-based Guard Dog Security, which is donating 50 percent of its proceeds to the victims of the Parkland shooting, and a South Carolina outdoors company called Nichols Store, which sells bulletproof inserts and a class for parents on how to use them.
Curran acknowledges that his price point is high but says in the past, when parents couldn’t afford a backpack, “We took care of it.” He tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “I’m not getting rich doing this. But the peace of mind is huge.”
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