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08/06/2019 13:15 EDT | Updated 08/06/2019 14:10 EDT

Bulletproof Backpacks Are A Stomach-Churning Back-To-School Trend In The U.S.

Parents are scrambling after a weekend of deadly shootings.

The fact that this is a trend is utterly heartbreaking.

Bulletproof backpacks are in high demand as parents buy their kids back-to-school supplies. Yes. Bulletproof backpacks. For children. Let that sink in.

The New York Times reports that U.S. sales of the backpacks initially surged in 2018, after the Parkland, Fla. school shooting that left 17 dead, but that last weekend’s deadly mass shootings across the U.S. brought them back into the spotlight. 

Newsweek reports that one Texas company that sells the gear saw massive sales over the weekend, with people from California, New York, and Florida scrambling for the items. Twitter is also full of people discussing the backpacks, and Google Trends shows that searches for “bulletproof backpack” in the U.S. have skyrocketed since Aug. 4.

Searches in Canada, while comparatively low, still surged over the weekend, with most searches for “bulletproof backpacks” coming from B.C., Alberta, and Ontario.

A popular pink bulletproof backpack was completely sold out on the U.S. Walmart website Tuesday morning (10 minutes later, the website re-stocked and had one left). 

Walmart
This pink bulletproof backpack at Walmart was sold out when HuffPost Canada searched for it on Aug. 6. 

While harder to find in Canada, bulletproof backpacks do appear to be available at some retailers such as Cookware Canada, online at ebay Canada, and for a price, bullet-proof inserts for kid’s backpacks can be shipped internationally from the U.S. via Etsy (where, by the way, they are a best-seller).

Imagine how terrified parents in the U.S. must be, now that bulletproof backpacks are on their shopping lists, right next to spiffy new shoes and a cool new lunchbox. 

“It’s incredibly depressing,” Igor Volsky, the director of Guns Down America, a gun-control advocacy group, told the New York Times. “The market is trying to solve for a problem that our politicians have refused to solve.”

A deadly weekend in the U.S.

A pair of horrific mass shootings in the U.S. left 31 people dead this weekend. 

In El Paso, Texas, the death toll creeped upward to 22 Monday from the shooting two days earlier at a Walmart store, with two additional victims succumbing to injuries. Police zeroed in on a racist screed posted online before the shooting to try to link it to the suspect. In Dayton, Ohio, even more questions remained about what spurred the suspected shooter to target a popular nightlife stretch in an attack that left the suspect’s sister among the dead.

The shootings have left parents in a panic as kids are set to return to school in September.

“I shouldn’t be afraid to send my child to school. My boy starts kindergarten and the first thing in my mind is should I buy a bulletproof backpack ... I’m so sad,” one person wrote on Twitter.  

Are bulletproof backpacks effective?

Well, that’s the thing. Not really.

HuffPost U.S. previously reported that Guard Dog Security and Bullet Blocker — makers of the backpacks — offer Level IIIA ballistic protection, as rated by the National Institute of Justice.

“That means it’s capable of stopping a bullet from a handgun, but not from a rifle like an AR-15 ― a semi-automatic civilian version of the military’s M16 that has become the recent gun of choice for mass shooters,” HuffPost reported.

WATCH: Experts put bulletproof backpacks to the test. Story continues below.

The mass shooter who killed 20 children and six teachers in the Newtown, Conn. shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary used an AR-15. So did the shooter that killed 17 people at at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland

CBS notes that the backpacks are bullet-resistant, but that nothing is bulletproof.

“We’re not saying, ’Buy a backpack, it’ll solve everything,” Guard Dog Security founder Yashi Sheikh told CBS.

“We’re saying this will put you in a better position in the case of a school shooting than someone who doesn’t have a bulletproof backpack.”

So, the world is horrifying, but what can we say to our kids?

While mass killings are much more common in the U.S., Canada is not immune (the Toronto Danforth shooting and Quebec City mosque shooting being two recent examples), and kids do get frightened. The effect can be especially heightened when children are involved. 

In the aftermath of these incidents, it’s important not to minimize your child’s fears, Dr. Michelle Ponti, a community pediatrician in London, Ont., and member of the Canadian Paediatric Society’s Digital Health Taskforce, previously told HuffPost Canada.

Ponti encourages parents to express some of their own emotions to their kids, reassure them, and let them know you’re going to get through it together. But parents should also be careful not to over-dramatize the events above and beyond their child’s developmental level, Ponti said. Takes cues from your children, she added, and determine if you think they’re ready to talk about what happened.

“Parents are the number-one source of providing reassurance for their children, because they know their kids the best.”

 With files from The Associated Press.