Back-to-school shopping has always been an annual rite of passage for most families — but it's starting look a little different.
In the past, back-to-school time meant buying some pencils, crayons, and notebooks. But now, bulletproof backpacks are an item appearing on many people's lists.
In summer 2018, back-to-school shopping shelves and ads have included bulletproof backpacks, inserts, and clipboards. Bulletproof backpacks are also increasingly showing up in kiosks at shopping malls.
Just earlier in 2018, bulletproof shields were given to eighth-graders at a Pennsylvania middle school. The shields were meant to be inserted into the students' backpacks — to better prepare them for high school.
The trend of bulletproof backpacks shouldn't be that surprising.
According to a national poll by Phi Delta Kappa International released in July, 1 in 3 parents in the United States express fears and concerns about their children's safety in schools, mainly stemming from repeated occurrences of school shootings.
The Washington Post reported that, since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, more than 215,000 students have experienced some form of gun violence at their school. So far, in 2018, there have been 23 reported school shootings.
Sales of bulletproof backpacks had a striking surge following the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida that killed 17 people. One manufacturer — Bullet Blocker — said orders of bulletproof backpacks had a 30% increase the day after the shooting. Another manufacturer, Guard Dog Security, reported a 150% increase in items shipped.
But here's the daunting reality: Bulletproof backpacks are not the answer.
While a lot of these bulletproof backpacks and inserts are marketed to provide security and convenience, the truth is far from it.
Bulletproof shields don't necessarily offer protection from assault weapons and rifles like that used in the Florida high school shooting. Safety consultants also have gone on the record to say that bulletproof products aren't very effective and are a real distraction from the actual solution: gun control reform.
School is meant to be a safe learning environment for children. It shouldn't be a war zone. Parents should not feel the need to send their children in bulletproof gear to school before some even learn how to read.
It's time for us to act. On Election Day November 2018, vote for candidates that fervently advocate for gun control. Until then, you can donate to gun control organizations, call your congressional representatives, and educate yourselves on state and federal gun laws.
Come on, America. We can do better.