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Can Kevlar save our kids?

February 24, 2018

Bulletproof Backpack

This high quality Backpack features built-in Kevlar that stops bullets from penetrating while only weighing ounces more than standard backpacks. $199.95

— Catalog Advertisement

• Jan. 3, St. Johns, MI: A 31-year-old man died of a self-inflicted wound in the parking lot of East Olive Elementary School.

• Jan. 4, Seattle, WA: A single shot was fired into New Start High School. It lodged in the spine of a three-ring binder. No one was hurt.

• Jan. 10, Sierra Vista, AZ: A teenager died of a bullet wound in a bathroom at Coronado Elementary School. Originally listed as a suicide, the incident is now being investigated as a homicide.

• Jan. 10, San Bernardino, CA: A bullet shattered a window at California State University. No one was injured.

• Jan. 10, Denison, TX: A bullet was accidentally fired. It went through a wall at Grayson College Criminal Center; no one was hurt.

• Jan. 15, Marshall, TX: A number of gunshots was fired on the campus of Wiley College. There were no injuries.

• Jan. 22, Gentilly, LA: A 14-year-old boy received a superficial wound when he was struck by a bullet outside The NET Charter High School.

• Jan. 22, Benton, KY: As students gathered in an open area prior to the start of classes, a 15-year-old student opened fire with a handgun. Two students died, and 18 others were injured, of which three were in critical condition.

• Jan. 25, Mobile, AL: A student fired a gun on the campus of Murphy High School. There were no injuries.

• Jan. 26, Dearborn, MI: Shots were fired from a car in the Dearborn High School parking lot. There were no reports of injuries.

• Jan. 31, Philadelphia, PA: Adults met at Lincoln High School to settle a dispute. The argument ended with gunfire, and a 20-year old man was shot twice and later died.

• Feb. 1, Los Angeles, CA: A 12-year-old female opened fire at Salvador B. Castro Middle School, wounding four students. After questioning the girl, police determined that the shooting was accidental.

• Feb. 5, Oxon Hill, MD: An eleventh grade student went to the parking lot of Oxon Hill High School to meet with other youths inside a vehicle. He was shot in the upper body, was in critical condition, but is expected to survive.

• Feb. 5, Maplewood, MN: A police officer was sitting on a bench at the Harmony Learning Center and talking to a class of special education students when a third grader reached over and pulled the trigger of the officer’s gun. The bullet passed through the holster and hit the floor. No one was injured.

• Feb. 8, New York, NY: A 17-year-old boy was taken into custody after he discharged a gun at Metropolitan High School in New York City. Police found a bullet hole in the floor of the classroom, but there were no injuries.

• Feb. 14, Parkland, FL: A 19-year-old former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School entered the grounds with an AR-15-type rifle and killed 17 people. Fourteen others were wounded, five of whom have life-threatening injuries.

Kevlar and caveats

Parkland, of course, is the most recent mass killing by an individual with an assault-type weapon. But, I’ve included this litany of incidents in 2018 so that you will know that school shootings are more common than we might have expected because most do not make the national news. In fact, last year, there were 48 shootings at school sites, that’s an average of four per month. If the current rate for 2018 continues, we’ll have had 144 incidents by December 31, an average of 12 per month.
Backpacks, like the one I spotted in a catalog, are selling like hotcakes. Other models can be found on Amazon, eBay, and other online sites. For a bit less money, you can simply buy a Kevlar insert for your child’s existing backpack. And, experts recommend it. Yasir Sheikh, president of Guard Dog Security in Florida, says, “The way we see it is this is almost going to become the new normal.”

But, there are some caveats. ABC News in Houston, Texas, asked Jeffrey Kimball, a former police officer and firearms instructor, to test the commercial products. With cameras rolling, he place a wooden barrel behind the student backpack to simulate a body and fired from about 10 yards away, using a 9mm Glock hand gun. The backpack effectively stopped the bullet from entering the barrel.

Kimball said, “This type of plate is rated for pistols, not necessarily rifles. I expect the rifle to defeat this body armor….” He then used an AR-15 rifle, the same weapon used last week in the Parkland shooting. The bullets went right through the backpack, even passing all the way through the barrel, itself. Kimball commented, “This is a type of soft body armor police officers would wear, this is not rifle rated, just like what police wear is not rifle rated.”

Kimball states that a rifle-resistant backpack would have to be made from metal plates, similar to those worn by the military or SWAT officers. However, the plates would be so heavy that an empty school backpack would feel as if it were already weighed down with books.

So, should we simply discard any notion of outfitting our kids with bullet-resistant backpacks? The answer: No. Kimball told the news station, “If you subscribe to the Department of Homeland Security’s view of run, hide, fight for an active shooter situation … if a child is running away from the gunfire, like (sic) they (sic) should be, it would be more practical to have it (bullet-resistant backpack) on the back.”

Kimball says that, while nothing can be absolutely bullet-proof, anything that gives children an added measure of protection is better than hiding and hoping that they’re not the target.

Here is today’s sad reality. While politicians and lobbyists bicker in state legislatures and Washington, D.C., parents are kissing their children goodbye in the morning and sending them to school, prepared for mortal combat. Perhaps the rally and march of the Parkland survivors will shame the adults into action. People in a civil society ought not fear that their kids might come home from school in a body bag.

• • •

This column is dedicated to the brave and eloquent Parkland students who spoke to the nation from Tallahassee on Wednesday morning. Jim Glynn may be contacted at j_glynn@att.net.

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