Bulletproof Backpacks for Schoolchildren

We've seen calls for transparent backpacks. Here's a call for bulletproof backpacks, which -- I presume -- go hand in hand with bulletproof textbooks.

With this kind of thinking, we'll have the school shooting problem licked in no time!

Posted on August 13, 2007 at 3:13 PM • 60 Comments

Comments

superheroAugust 13, 2007 3:36 PM

Bulletproof: fictional adj. An inherent trait acquired by motion picture action heros. for related fantasies see: flubber [anti-gravity], teleportation.

Anon TechieAugust 13, 2007 3:41 PM

The world is getting “Curiouser and curiouser!��? Where will all this end?

Brandioch ConnerAugust 13, 2007 3:52 PM

Bruce,
I don't usually say it but you are WAY wrong on this.

The only real problem with the backpacks is that they wouldn't be allowed in the schools that require transparent or mesh ones.

But that's not the correct solution to the school shooting problem.

What we need are school uniforms. School uniforms made of kevlar. The backpacks are nice, but they don't cover enough of the body. And kids never wear them right.

And remember, you'll only oppose my idea if you hate the children. Don't you want to protect the children?

Now, who wants to be the first to invest in my new bulletproof school uniform business?

Pat CahalanAugust 13, 2007 3:55 PM

This is all a waste of time anyway. All these school shooters are warped entirely by videogames, we know that. And in all of these videogames, you get bonus points for head shots.

B.A. barackasAugust 13, 2007 3:56 PM

bring back dodgeball to schools. It will teach the kids how to get out of the way of bullets, and how to throw books at the offending shooter..

AnonymousAugust 13, 2007 4:12 PM

>>>"All these school shooters are warped entirely by videogames"

Jack Thompson? Is that you?

ARMAugust 13, 2007 4:17 PM

"I want to keep my kid safe. I don't care what you do -- if you want to fight the good fight or fix the world's hurts, I can't help you, but my kids are going to be safe because of these backpacks," [Joe] Curran, [of My Child's Pack] said.

Mr. Curran's statement rests on so many assumptions that it's almost completely laughable. If all school shootings were the same, it would make sense. But there are as many ways to go about such a crime as there are crazed lunatics that commit them, and in many cases, an improvised bulletproof shield would be of little to no help.

JackAugust 13, 2007 4:25 PM

So, with enough backbacks I can built a bullet-proof vest / jacket / suite for the next schoolshooting?

Come on guys, this kind of security can backfire very easily. It's as save as giving your kids (or have them yourself) guns for "selfdefence".

Guns belong in the hands of trained professionals and law-enforcement only - so does any special equipment.

bluebugAugust 13, 2007 4:43 PM

@Brandioch Conner: kevlar? C'mon, there are plenty types of ammo available which penetrate the usual kevlar-body-armor. When it comes to our childrens' safety, use nothing but the best: good old hardened steel with reactive armour. ;)

JonAugust 13, 2007 4:46 PM

What I want to know is where I can buy a school jacket with car air bags built in, to reduce the 40,000 Americans killed on the roads each year?

AlanAugust 13, 2007 4:48 PM

Since school children are treated as criminals in most juristictions these days, and since many juristictions forbid criminals to posess bulletproof vests or other clothing, will children be mandated to carry backbacks that are illegal for them to own?

"The class on Catch-22 will be held in Room 22."

Timmy303August 13, 2007 5:01 PM

All schoolchildren will be replaced by bullet-proof mini-ninja bots, which will be educated in our stead and later perform all human life maintenance tasks. This will leave us free to enjoy our newfound infinite leisure time.

nzrussAugust 13, 2007 5:05 PM

I'm just waiting for someone to suggest arming the students so they can protect themselves...

Still waiting....

Where do I buy a spectrashield overcoat?August 13, 2007 5:09 PM

So now the goth kids are being encouraged to wear kevlar trenchcoats?

AndrewAugust 13, 2007 5:09 PM

@ Jack

>> It's as save as giving your kids (or have them yourself) guns for "selfdefence".

If you can't spell in either America or the UK, you have no business giving firearms advice.

>> Guns belong in the hands of trained professionals and law-enforcement only - so does any special equipment.

So you stipulate that in many cases, law enforcement personnel are NOT trained professionals? Sadly, this has an element of truth to it.

Obviously you do not believe in the right of the individual citizen to operate a motor vehicle. Firearms are much less deadly than cars. So please go and turn in your driver's license before you hurt someone.

On my planet, private persons routinely operate motor vehicles, firearms and chain saws without injury or incident. So do our volunteer firefighters, who are by definition not "professional" but nonetheless demonstrate competence and professionalism every day.

It must be so nice to live on your planet, where all the walls are thoughtfully padded. I don't think much of armored backpacks, but I think much, much less of people who try to use the law to impose their inaccurate opinions on others.

AaronAugust 13, 2007 5:17 PM

Those definitely won't be light. Kids are already having back problems as a result of the number of books they're carrying around. (they're probably bullet resistant already because of them.)

Now we're going to have an emergent property of children with early back problems that are safe from an infinitesimal risk of gunfire.

DBHAugust 13, 2007 5:21 PM

There'll be war surplus body armor for our kids when we bring our troops back home...oh right, that'll be never...

NeuromangerAugust 13, 2007 5:36 PM

Gibson had a bit about bullet-proof "Lucky Dragon" fanny packs in "All Tomorrow's Parties"... I guess he wins again.

As far as the transparent backpack... use transparent aluminum.

Brandioch ConnerAugust 13, 2007 5:47 PM

@Anonymous
Kids have been playing "Cops and Robbers" with toy cap guns for years. Yet he doesn't address the psychological implications of shooting your friends as a kid.

He also skips over that Vietnam was the first war where we were the invaders and we could not tell "friends" from "enemies".

We've had "shell shocked" troops in every war.

Playing a video game with my friends where we shoot zombies doesn't sound as bad as pointing a cap gun at my friends and pulling the trigger.

Particularly where the video game's controller doesn't even resemble a gun.

Anony MouseAugust 13, 2007 6:14 PM

Maybe the backpacks are to prevent the guns that go off accidentally from causing too much suspicion too early. That way, when the kids decide to go full tilt, no one will be the wiser.

Sound deadening backpacks would help too.

JimAugust 13, 2007 6:21 PM

I think the debate comes down to what is best for the kids. It is a trade-off between a very arguably effective defence tool versus the negative impact of sending a child off to school with bullet-proof garments or gear.

I think the negative psychological impact of the backpack outweighs by many orders of magnitude the possible positive defensive impacts.

The negatives are almost a certainty and could be quite severe. The positives... well, I am trying to picture a cool, collected 10 year old running like a commando with a pack being held out perfectly in a shield-like manner through the cafeteria while being shot at by a deranged individual trying to carry out a massacre. Panic, fear, chaos and inexperience would lead me to believe the pack would prove mostly irrelevant. The odds of a child being exposed to this in the US is still, quite fortunately, very very slight.

Frank Ch. EiglerAugust 13, 2007 6:32 PM

> [...] I think the negative psychological impact of the backpack [...] The negatives are almost a certainty and could be quite severe.

It rather depends what exactly the kids are told. If the kids are already aware of self-defense concepts; if their parents just deal with it matter-of-factly, instead of constantly lamenting the sad world order where mean people hurt nice people, well, the kids may be all right.

Ian WoollardAugust 13, 2007 6:53 PM

Sooooo.... if you want to shoot lots of kids you first buy lots of these bullet proof backpacks to protect yourself with and load up on backpack-piercing ammo?

RakuenAugust 13, 2007 10:10 PM

Seriously, these people just aren't thinking big enough.

Why stop at bullet-proof backpacks when we can give the kids overshields? In September, they'll even have the helmet to match.

Joel SaxAugust 13, 2007 10:19 PM

Why not lower the draft age to 13 and let the military send the kids to Iraq with all the accoutrements they need for self defense?

Unix RoninAugust 13, 2007 10:28 PM

In the real world, the only time this idea is likely to be of value is if you have a hallway full of kids running for exits to get away from a shooter — a case which, thanks to the almost-universal "hole up in the classrooms with no escape" standard response, will almost certainly never happen.

AndyAugust 14, 2007 3:12 AM

What you really need is to make only 'child safe' bullets. Perhaps some kind of vegetable-based round (biodegradable), propelled by some sort of compressed air. (I miss spud guns...)

Seriously though, when are Americans going to read the Second Amendment and start enacting sensible guns controls? With 20-factor power, I can't imagine any militia is necessary...

Erik NAugust 14, 2007 4:28 AM

This is not ambitious enough. How about a shield that can actually deflect or better, reflect the bullets back at the attacker? Bullet goes backup the gun barrel and destroys the gun, no-one gets hurt.

Or, as some mentioned, child safe bullets or guns, that cannot fire on targets less than 18 years old? (will self destruct before target is hit).

Or, why don't you genetically manipulate the kids to stealth protection - or just breed cyborgs.

A bullet proof shield is sooo old fashioned.

bobAugust 14, 2007 6:43 AM

@Joel Sax: Because there is no such thing (in the US); we have not had a draft in 3 decades. All the people in Iraq/Afghanistan/etc signed up willingly, knowing that it was a likelihood they would go there. They decided the benefit to society (or themselves) was greater than the potential harm to themselves. This is what makes them true role models, unlike the "drink till I puke then drive a car with a suspended license and kill a bunch of people but I'll get off because I am photogenic" crowd in California.

Matthew SkalaAugust 14, 2007 8:22 AM

Paenito - yes, there are transparent bullet-resistant materials. Polycarbonate plastic is one example, and it's quite cheap. However, it's not at all practical as a backpack material.

MikeAugust 14, 2007 9:54 AM

@ Andrew
"Firearms are much less deadly than cars." WTF? Did I miss a demolition derby style school massacre? You might want to tell that to the gangster fraternity, the drive-by might become the drive-thru. Cars are vehicles, designed for transport. If they were sold with spikes and meatgriders attatched to the bumper, and given names like "pedestrian-mangler" you might have a point. furthermore, a driving licence is earned, by demonstrating ability and responsibility you don't have a right to drive - hence the term "licence". Guns, on the other hand, are a tool for killing, and are pretty much freely avaible in the US with little checks.

The self-defense argument makes as much sense as arming all the countries with nuclear weapons to prevent war. Everybody is safer if no-one, or a few, accountable, responsible people have them.

I get sick of hearing " guns don't kill poeple, people do". Guns make it a hell of a lot easier. Maniacal killers wouldn't get so far with a crowbar, slingshot or knife.

chabuhiAugust 14, 2007 10:11 AM

How about if we equip all children with "lite" versions of those bomb/HRT robots that they can remotely drive to school and remotely attend classes?

They can even equip their robots with guns (or circular saws or trebuchets) to do battle with the other childrens' bots!

That way the children would be completely safe AND you could still have school shootings.

Everyone's happy!

DougCAugust 14, 2007 11:03 AM

@ mike

Yes, in this country firearms kill far fewer people (and other animals) than cars.
Over and over, year after year. Cars kill more than wars for the last quite a few decades at least.

You did miss a drive-in killing, in fact several that were quite deadly in the number of people per incident killed in the last couple years -- one by a gang against another, one by an old fart against a gang. I can't say why they didn't get the weeks of attention in the news that a "mass" shooting does that kills half as many, but that's just how it is.

Yes, the self defense argument makes as much sense as nuclear weapons preventing war, which they successfully have done for quite awhile, barring minor by-proxy events.
When did we have that all out war with the Soviet Union or China, just jog my memory on that one. Or the all out war between India and Pakistan that isn't happening for exactly what reason?

At the end, yes it IS people who kill people, guns are merely a tool, and often not the best one for the job at hand -- It is I who am the weapon, and I choose the tool for the job. Guns are noisy, they jam, you might miss, and so on. Might not be the best choice in lots of situations. Although I am a gunsmith and obviously have guns here, what's by my door is a couple million candlepower flashlight and a pair of bokken sticks. The right tools for self defense unless it's an army -- in which case no weapon but the brain is going to keep you alive.

And, it's legal to "brandish" a flashlight, even though this one is guaranteed to cause semi permanent damage to the target (200W output will burn the target if nothing else). No one I suppose thinks the laws actually make any sense.

Disclaimer: I have killed two animals with guns. One was a poisonous snake involved in a fight with my pets. The other was a fly on a target at 200 yds, which I did gratuitously to prove I could. The match directors post-decided to let that shot outide the bullseye not count, as they were laughing at the spray of fly guts. Go ahead and flame me for killing a fly.

partdavidAugust 14, 2007 11:32 AM

@Unix Ronin: "...hole up in the classrooms with no escape..."

Now that you mention it, it seems strange for a variety of reasons (fire, contamination, violence) that every classroom does not have a fire exit to the outside.

I suppose there are probably schools with interior rooms where it can't be helped; but for others, it seems like some way of enabling escape through the window is in order.

ScottAugust 14, 2007 1:48 PM

@Mike: "furthermore, a driving licence is earned, by demonstrating ability..."

Oh how I wish that were true, but that's another topic.

stellaAugust 15, 2007 10:40 AM

"Necessity is the mother of invention" Regardless of how outrageous it seems to be discussing whether or not one's child needs a bullet proof backpack, the reality is that products like this begin with a thought process when a problem presents itself for which there is currently no solution. Should we wait until the problem of societal violence is solved before we begin to address ways to protect ourselves from it? Our children can't take these measures. That's why they need pro-active parents who aren't deterred by comments that, although valid in other arenas (the courtroom, senate floor, presidential debate) are irrelevant when discussing the issue of helping one's child avoid a bullet. Is there an urgent need for a bullet-proof backpack in certain Massachusetts towns north of Boston? Probably not. But if I had the misfortune of living anywhere close to a major city such as Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles,etc., my child wouldn't leave home without it.

AnonymousAugust 15, 2007 3:07 PM

There are many kids playing the same games and know better then to take a gun to school and shoot people. It's a sad realization when you need to purchase anything bullet proof for a child to wear to a classroom. Perhaps people should look more into home schooling.

CARDINAL999August 15, 2007 4:55 PM

Additional note on the Polycarbonate shield.


/// *** from http://www.kgoam810.com/viewentry.asp?ID=359808&PT=PERSONALITIES

Bulletproof Clipboard Offers Safety for College Students in these Crazy Times
Here is an email sent to KGO management following the discussion about bullet proof clipboards on the Ronn Owens show KGO radio on 4-17-07:


Below are two pictures of the simple bullet proof transparent clipboard that I designed at the request of the former CHP commissioner Spike Helmick. It was tested at the CHP Academy in about 2002 as I remember. At the end of to this email is a link to the official 2002 report to CHP Commissioner Helmick.

CHP Officers shot at this clipboard at 10 ft. with all big handguns. The 40 S&W is one of the most powerful in use today -- muzzle energy like a 357 Magnum. Only a small portion of the bullet penetrated the 1/4 inch clipboard, as you can see. The part that passed through would not normally be lethal. The 9mm and 38 were stopped completely. I thought it would take at least 1/2 inch to do this. That was one pleasant surprise.

You will note that the bullets all dug a crater in the plastic and then bounced back. This was the other pleasant surprise. At close range, the shooter can be sprayed by the bullets he shots at the clipboard. I develop another layered form of plastic clipboard that enhances this "bounce back" feature to confuse the shooter. It is much more expensive and is confidential at the present time.

Anyone can buy one of these at Tap Plastics. Make sure it is Polycarbonate, not normal Lucite used in most so-called bullet proof glass barriers. The best thickness is 3/8 inch if you can get it. The 3/8 will stop that 40S&W. What you see here is only 1/4 inch thick. It does the job. 1/2 inch is nice and super safe, but heavy. the 3/8 feels good in the hand and on the lap as a general purpose clipboard. that is what I carry with me on planes ( and so do many others). It is a great writing board on my lap. It fits nicely in the laptop computer case or in a backpack. It looks perfectly innocent. It is a real close quarters weapon if used in the right way, as well as a bullet shield.

All police officers should be using one of these every time they approach a driver or suspect at close quarters. It protects their head and neck that are not protected by their body armor. but it that's time for something to be accepted. They did not accept body armor for over fifteen years. A young CHP Lt. whom I worked with on the terrorist truck stopping experiments in 2001 to 2003 was shot in the face and killed two years ago when he made a routine traffic stop near Sacramento. The killer shot him in the face when he approached the car. The Lt. would be alive if he had been holding this simple bullet proof clipboard between his face and the driver. The bullet impact would have slammed the clipboard back in his face, but he would not have been seriously injured.

As bizarre as it sounds today, if a group of students had these in hand, they would have a much better chance of surviving a random shooter at close range, and they could even charge the shooter with some safety.

The news media around the country that covered our many anti-terrorism experiments at the CHP academy after 9/11 has suddenly remembered this bullet proof clipboard. Many heard me describe it on the Ronn Owens show on KGO Radio yesterday. It is a shame that it takes something like the Virginia massacre to bring attention to a simple solution for some of the violence today. At the very least, our police officers should have these. A lot of worried parents might want the same.

Bill Wattenburg

###

An 10 by 14 inch piece of clear Polycarbonate plastic, 1/4 inch thick, used as a bullet stopping clipboard.

BiaxylaAugust 16, 2007 12:32 AM

I think Bulletproof back packs aren't enuf for the kids i think they make bulletproof helmats throw out the year!!!!!!!!!!

KristineAugust 16, 2007 6:19 AM

I like the idea. Then, when commies^Wterrorists detonate their atomic bomb, the kids can use their backpack to "duck and cover".


Kristine

markmAugust 16, 2007 9:01 AM

If the whole idea wasn't so ludicrous, this part about the testing would be: "It stops an assortment of bullets, including 9-millimeter hollow point bullets."

Hollow point reduces the armor-penetration potential. 9 mm is a pistol round, with about medium power as pistol rounds go. This implies that they tested only with some of the weakest rounds you might be facing, provided the shooter selected a gun for the purpose of shooting people rather than just picking up an old .22 from the closet. There are plenty of higher-powered hand-guns (.45 ACP, the .40's that the FBI now uses, .357 Magnum and up), which I expect would penetrate that backpack easily. And then there are the rifle rounds, designed for much higher velocity. Most rifle rounds above .22LR will penetrate any armor that a strong male adult can carry around with him, even if they're fired from a short-barreled weapon. (That's illegal without a hard-to-get federal license, but all it takes is a hacksaw, and someone planning to shoot as many students as possible isn't worried about violating laws...)

cmarnoldAugust 16, 2007 10:54 AM

Uh...the school shooting problem goes away when schools are eliminated. Too much fancy book larnin' anyway.

-CMA

RangerDadAugust 19, 2007 6:57 PM

Don't we teach our kids to "stop, drop and roll" if they catch on fire, "stranger danger" if someone tries to take them, don't we watch "To catch a predator" and see how many pedophiles are out there. Getting struck by lightning is rare, but we still tell our kids not to stand under a tree during a storm. Our kids are inundated with "scary" societal issues, this is just another scary issue we must discuss with our kids. The Boston school system already requires students to; pass through a metal detector, have bags and person searched by a security guard at a check point, required clear bags for inspections, conduct "lockdown drills", so tell me if the kids are aware of school violence issues or not. This backpack offers a proactive tool for their own defence.

JackNovember 21, 2007 4:28 PM

You have to realize that the school shooter would also be issued a bullet proof backpack, vest, or whatever the standard package is. Now you have a kid with a gun running around shooting while wearing his own bodyarmor. That doesn't sound like a solution.

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