It’s back to school time in the United States and many students are sporting a new accessory – bulletproof backpacks.
Sales of the newest armament in the fight against random killings soared by 200 percent after mass shootings in early August, CNN reported. The El Paso, Texas, Walmart shooting left 22 dead, while the next day nine were killed in Dayton, Ohio. While these were not targeted at schools, the random attacks can occur anywhere and have frightened parents into taking measures to protect their children.
Small wonder, considering that since 2009, there have been 180 school shootings that have claimed 356 lives. The number of mass shootings is increasing.
The backpacks are fitted with lightweight body armour to protect a child in the case of a random school attack. However, there is a caveat to the bulletproof backpacks. Testing demonstrated that the product offered by a Florida company, named Guard Dog, cannot protect against projectiles from rifles and assault weapons favoured by killers. Plus of course they do not protect children from a frontal assault.
But they are just one of the safety arsenals deployed by schools.
At an expo in Florida in 2018, vendors were exhibiting products that would provide more safety at schools.
Whiteboards– mobile panels that can be linked and used as a blackboard on one side for teachers, and that contain ballistic materials to protect against bullets, were offered at $2,900 (US).
“What we want to do is just to give the kids, the teachers, a chance,” said a Whiteboard vendor. “So they can buy a few minutes.” Others offered tourniquets, pepper-ball guns and facial recognition software. Schools are upping security with metal detectors at entrances. Some schools are arming teachers while others are hiring security personnel to patrol schools.
The spate of school shootings has turned school security into a $2.7 billion market. Advocates for stricter gun control were optimistic that the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut, where 20 first-graders and six adults were gunned down, would finally result in political action to curb guns. What it did was frighten various school officials to heighten school security, but in reality little else. It was passive action, rather than prevention through tougher laws.
The gun lobby quotes the 2ndAmendment in the American Constitution that guarantees a citizen’s right to guns. The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
But the muskets of the 1770s when that right was enshrined are a far cry from weapons like today’s AR-15 that can fire 400 rounds per minute.
The powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) calls the AR-15 the “most popular rifle in America” and estimated that Americans own more than eight million of them. The NRA spends millions supporting politicians who resist more stringent gun controls and they fear the organisation’s power at the ballot box.
America requires strong leadership to take action on instigating more stringent background checks and prohibition of weapons like the AR-15. They are not going to get it from President Donald Trump, who is under the sway of the NRA.
Following three mass shootings in California, Texas and Ohio over three weeks, the mercurial president said on Aug. 20 he supported efforts to tighten gun laws. A few days later, after being reminded by the powerful gun lobby they helped propel him into the White House, he walked back his support.
“A lot of the people who put me where I am are strong believers in the 2ndAmendment, and I am also,” Trump said.
It is often said by gun supporters that the perpetrators of these mass murders are mentally ill, conveniently leaving out that other countries have mentally ill people and they do not have the rampant mass killings like the United States. While states that do have more stringent gun controls, like California, suffer from the fact that guns can be brought in from other states who do not have those regulations.
So for the parents, trivial matters such as whether Johnny got an ‘A’ in Geography cease to exist – the real question is whether Johnny got home in one piece.