If a new backpack for your child is on your back-to-school shopping list, there is more to consider for parents than just what the bag will hold. In response to the rise in deadly school shootings nationally, major retailers are stocking their shelves with bulletproof backpacks for the first time.
NBC4 in Los Angeles attempted to find out if parents are actually buying the backpacks and if they can actually stop a bullet.
"We definitely want to protect our children," said Janine, a concerned parent. "I don't know that a product like this would do that for them."
For parents like Janine, though, the images of school shootings like the one in Parkland, Florida last February are seared in their memory.
"They go in your school and they have guns and some people get shot," said Felix, a student.
His casual assessment of the situation betrays the urgency and anxiety of parents struggling with how to protect their kids from a potential mass shooter.
"I think it's scary," said Lesli, a parent. "I don't want my son getting shot!"
Retailers are responding to that fear. Bulletproof backpacks are being sold at stores like Walmart, Home Depot and Office Depot, where an NBC4 producer bought one.
The model purchased was a Guard Dog ProShield 2, claiming to be certified to stop a 9 mm or .44-caliber bullet. NBC4 enlisted Scott Reitz, a firearms instructor with three decades of experience with the LAPD, to test that claim.
"There's a lot of BS in this industry, guys who claim this, that and the other thing," Reitz said.
The backpack was attached to a mannequin and hung as a target. Reitz set up about 15 yards away, the distance he says most school shooting victims are shot from.
First, he fired a 9 mm handgun, and the bullet penetrated every layer of the backpack's inner fabric. Upon further examination, however, the bullet had not made it through the back panel.
The next shot was from a .45-caliber, a more powerful handgun. Again, the back panel contained the bullet.
Lastly, Reitz used an AR-15 rifle, the weapon our military uses and has been frequently used in school shootings. This time, both bullets went through the back panel.
In a statement to the NBC4 I-Team, Skyline USA which manufacturers the Guard Dog backpack said: "Our backpacks are tested and rated against Level IIIA, which excludes AR-Caliber bullets. This protection can lessen the impact of bullets from higher caliber weapons such as an AR-15 when filled with normally carried objects (books/binders)."
That raises a new dilemma for parents: Are they paying for protection or peace of mind?
Reitz believes both may be worth the cost.
"It's better than nothing," Reitz said. "It's better than a T-shirt, better than a cotton dress."
Additionally, some parents say it would be better to not have to live with the fear of their child being shot at school.
Bulletproof backpacks are pricey, as costs average between $130-$180. Consumers should do their homework, check its safety rating and certification, and there should be no expectation that a backpack like this can stop a bullet from a military-style rifle.