EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As students start a new school year, some of them are returning to class with bulletproof backpacks.
Sales of bulletproof backpacks and bulletproof inserts for backpacks dramatically increased immediately following recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, according to Kristen Regine, a retail and marketing professor in Johnson and Wales University’s College of Business.
“You can get them anywhere,” she said. “The distribution of these bags is really what has shifted.”
“It really is an emotional appeal,” Regine added. “It really taps into the parent or the grandparent: ‘What can I do? Is there anything I can do to put my child and myself at ease?'”
CBS News tested a bullet-resistant backpack insert at a gun range. It stopped bullets from a handgun but was no match for an AR-15 rifle.
The same can be said of many of the bulletproof backpacks and inserts on the market, according to Eyewitness News law enforcement analyst Steven O’Donnell.
“They’d go right through those backpacks, so I think there’s a false sense of security,” O’Donnell said.
The former R.I. State Police superintendent believes bulletproof backpacks have the potential to save a life, but he also said they could confuse students in an emergency.
“Typically, a child will go to school and leave their backpack somewhere like they would leave their coat,” he said. “Some might say, ‘I have to get that backpack,’ and that two, three, ten seconds of a young child trying to figure out what to do and panic may be the difference between life or death.”
Bulletproof backpacks usually sell for $100 to $500.
Call 12 for Action asked every school district in Rhode Island if they have rules regarding bulletproof backpacks. Twelve districts responded and of those, none have a specific policy about bulletproof backpacks on school grounds.