Published: 07th September 2019
Students to become armoured robots: Why school shootings call for effective protection
This year, ArmorMe, a personal defence firm, started selling a bulletproof backpack that can unfold into a larger covering
The nation’s children, families, poor, workers and senior citizens deserve more than lip service. They deserve more than outrage. They deserve real support, protection and solid action
— Blaze J Cupich, American Cardinal
Lofty sentiments in the above quote! But who should bell the cat? Many take it on themselves — however defective or potentially ineffective the outcome may be. We must start from an American initiative narrated recently in a Daily Mirror story titled, “Parents in the US scramble to get bulletproof bags for kids.”
According to the Daily Mirror story, before his freshman year at the University of Connecticut, J T Lewis received an unusual gift from his mother: a bulletproof backpack. Lewis comes from a family shattered by gun violence — his younger brother, Jesse, was killed in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. When his mother gave him the backpack, he said, she did not have to say a word. As mass shootings have become a part of life in the US, it’s not just the families of victims who are investing in protective gear. A growing number of companies are offering bulletproof backpacks too.
“It’s depressing,” said Igor Volsky, the director of Guns Down America, a gun-control advocacy group. “The market is trying to solve a problem that our politicians have refused to solve.” Demand for bulletproof backpacks surged after the shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida, in February 2018. The subsequent shootings in El Paso and Dayton have brought renewed attention to the product. In the past, some stores had reportedly sold all of their backpacks, which typically cost $100 to $200. Months before the Parkland shooting, a private Christian school in Miami sold protective panels that could be inserted into backpacks, charging $120 for the bulletproof shields.
This year, ArmorMe, a personal defence firm, started selling a bulletproof backpack that can unfold into a larger covering. Another company, Guard Dog Security, has been selling bulletproof backpacks after the Sandy Hook shooting took place. “It could be the difference between life and death,” said Yasir Sheikh, who runs the firm. “There isn’t a parent in this country who isn’t terrified. These companies are capitalising on that,” said Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a gun-control lobby. In India, students have been spared from such shootings. But the bulletproof schoolbags seem to offer a false sense of safety. What if the shooter targets the neck or below the waist? Backpack protection is illusory and self-delusional. In other words, effective protection would call for full-body armoured suits.
Then, we will have students moving around like full-body armoured robots. Is this feasible and acceptable? Are we ready for it? Will it be needed for campuses in India?