AUSTIN (KXAN) — Just in time for back-to-school shopping, bulletproof backpacks are now being sold in some Office Depot and Office Max stores across the country, including Austin.
They’ve mostly been sold online up to this point, but retailers say the demand is going up due to parents looking for a way to help protect their children from school shootings.
KXAN found four made by Guard Dog Security on the shelf at the north Austin Office Depot at U.S. 290 and IH 35. The cheapest option is about $195 with tax.
It looks and feels like a normal backpack, but comes with a soft armor panel sewn into the back that has been tested to stop a 9mm or .44 magnum round of ammunition.
KXAN’s sister station in Knoxville, Tennessee, WATE, took the same backpack to a gun range and put it to the test. It stopped two bullets from piercing through. The report concluded that anyone wearing the backpack would be injured by the impact, but would still be alive. The backpack is made to stop most handguns and shotguns, but not rifles.
Adam Handelsman with SpecOps Communications represents readytogosurvival.com, an online store based in Austin, that recently stopped selling the soft armor backpacks and switched to bulletproof plates instead.
The PakProtect plate, made with a patented polyurethane composite, weighs 17 ounces. Handelsman said his own daughter carries it in her backpack at Vandegrift High School in northwest Austin.
“Yes, it is a very disturbing conversation,” said Handelsman. “It’s one that when I grew up my parents never had, but I feel that there are some people who can stick their head in the sand and say it’s never going to happen to my kid. And there’s other people who are going to say, ‘Well unfortunately, this is the world we live in, and I want my kids to have the same protection the law enforcement in our community use — and have them come home every night.’“
The plate has been tested to stop ammunition from a 9mm and a 40mm handgun, and withstood multiple rounds in this test posted on social media.
Readytogosurvival.com said they sell about 100 plates a month at $130 each.
Company founder Roman Zrazhevskiy believes parents are definitely buying them, because in August — when kids head back to class — he sees a 250% spike in sales. Zrazhevskiy said massive school shootings also drive up sales.
Carl Morse, who had not heard of the ballistic gear made for children, was shocked there is such a product on the market. But said he would buy it for his own two daughters who are now in college.
“It’s your child’s life,” said Morse. “And our daughter that goes to UT, there’s enough crazy things that happen on that campus, I’d be willing to get her one.”
Local school district weighs in
Some school districts in other parts of the country are banning bulletproof backpacks. The Austin, Round Rock and Leander school districts all told KXAN they do no have policies against them.
Round Rock ISD director of safety and security Jeffrey Yarbrough said the decision is up to parents.
“Our focus is making sure that when our students come to school we have trained, we have prepared, we have planned effectively,” said Yarbrough. “And when we accomplish those tasks I think the parents will understand that their kids are in a really great school district where they can have that freedom to just be children.”
Bulletproof backpacks that cost more than $100 do not quality for tax-free weekend coming up on Aug. 9.