(USA Today) - Parents anxious about their children's safety are boosting sales of armored backpacks in the wake of the Sandy Hook school massacre, manufacturers are reporting.
"I can't go into exact sales numbers, but basically we tripled our sales volume of backpacks that we typically do in a month - in one week," Derek Williams, president of Salt Lake City-based Amendment II, told Mother Jones on Tuesday.
Wednesday, Williams told ABC News sales were now up "over 500%" since Friday, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza murdered 20 students, six teachers and his mother before killing himself in the Newtown, Conn., elementary school.
Elmar Uy, BulletBlocker's chief operating officer, also told ABC that sales were up "tenfold." The Associated Press quotes him as saying sales had tripled since last week.
"When word gets out there is an option, not a complete solution, to protect their kids, parents go and seek it," he said.
Both companies make lightweight body armor for police, the military and security services. But the armor is designed to stop bullets from various handguns, not high-powered assault rifles like the Bushmaster semiautomatic that Lanza and the Aurora, Colo., theater gunman used.
The federal National Institute of Justice sets minimum standards and testing methods for personal body armor. "Unfortunately, there is no such thing as bulletproof armor," the agency states.
Amendment II says its products "contain the world's first commercially available carbon nanotube armor." Six months ago, the manufacturer expanded its product line to children.
Here's how Amendment II describes its $300 "ballistic" backpacks for children and teens -- available in Swiss Gear, Avengers and Disney Princesses styles -- and the ammunition they claim to stop:
Our ballistic backpack provides built-in ballistic protection in a backpack that weighs just ounces more than a non-armored backpack. RynoHide carbon nanotube armor is lined in the back panel of the backpack. Sewn into the rear of the pack, you can always be confident that the armor hasn't been accidentally left at home and that you or your child are protected in case of the unthinkable. The backpack can be quickly brought to the front as a shield or can serve as center of mass protection while fleeing the scene of the shooting.
Available in boys, girls, or teen/adult models and Level II (.357 Magnum, .45, .40, 9 mm) or Level IIIA (.44 Magnum, .357 SIG and below) protection (+ $100).
Amendment II also offers a $499 tactical vest for children.
New Hampshire-based Black Dragon Tactical offers a "Bullet resistant" backpack and a "Wheeled Level IIIA Tactical Concealable Armor Backpack." It claims both easily defeat "multiple handgun rounds up to 44 magnum caliber rounds fired at this newly developed polymer material produced for emergency self defense."
The company also makes backpack inserts, as does LaRue Tactical in Austin, which offers a "Backpack Shield BP3A Level IIIA Ballistic Plate."
BulletBlocker, based in Nutting Lake, Mass., offers a variety of packs and inserts made from laminated layers of polyethylene fibers. Besides its "child safety" pack (on sale for $200), the company's school safety section advertises bulletproof inserts for bags, briefcases, clipboards and three-ring binders priced from $30 to $619.
The company's website describes how to use its products:
Hold bag between yourself and the shooter using the straps as handles. Use as a shield to provide cover for upper torso and head whenever possible. While taking shelter use bag to protect yourself in the direction of the threat. While running away, hold bag high on your back or in the direction of the threat to protect your head and upper torso (vital organs).
But the company offers this crucial caution: "Doubling up two (2) Level IIIAs WILL NOT stop a rifle projectile!"
BulletBlocker says its products "were created by a real-life father who is a trained firearms instructor with over a decade of law enforcement experience." In August 2007, "My Child's Pack" was created.
The escalation of school violence made it a rapidly growing cause for concern. It became clear that we all need to do our part to help make our kids safe. We decided to put our experience with firearms, street violence, protective materials and tactics to good use. This resulted in being able to bring a product to the market that provides good kids an advantage over the increasingly violent and heavily armed society we live in. BulletBlocker is proud to offer a discrete, defensive product at an affordable price.
The owner of Backpack Shield began making youth backpacks after the 2007 killings at Virginia Tech University, which remains the nation's worst mass shooting.
"I don't do it for the money, but to save the lives of kids," President Kerry Clark told AP. "We've got to do something more than just hide in the corner of the classroom."
Amendment II, reacting to some criticism that it might be exploiting the Sandy Hook tragedy, posted a statement on its site explaining its technology and promising to donate to victims' families:
We are currently being assailed for "capitalizing" on the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School by selling our bulletproof backpacks and backpack inserts. These products have been available for months, and were not created in response to the shootings, but were created because many parents who knew of our technology made requests for armored backpacks.
Nanotechnology does not create itself. We would love to be able to provide every child in the world with our technology. However, we are a young company with new technology that we have put years and millions of dollars into creating. We simply don't have the budget to do that. We are examining ways to provide more armor at little to no cost, but it will require a partnership with likeminded organizations who have deeper pockets than we do. In the meantime, we can and will donate a portion of all our sales to the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy.
Ken Larson, of Denver, told the Associated Press that he persuaded his wife to buy an armored backpack for their 1-year-old son after Friday's massacre.
"It's a no-brainer. My son's life is invaluable," said the 41-year-old Larson, who already owned an armored pack. "If I can get him a backpack for $200 that makes him safer, I don't even have to think about that."
"Kids already carry backpacks. When there is a shooting, you run for your life," he said. "Having it right there and on when he runs for his life gives him more safety."
By Michael Winter, USA Today