In a photo from ArmorMe, an advertisement for the company’s bulletproof backpacks. (ArmorMe via The New York Times)

The Bulletproof backpack is back in demand, In the US


In a dystopian development, a growing number of companies are offering bulletproof backpacks in back-to-school sales, marketing them to parents who are desperate to protect their children from gunmen.

Before his freshman year at the University of Connecticut, J.T. Lewis received an unusual gift from his mother: a bulletproof backpack. Lewis, who will be a sophomore at the university, comes from a family shattered by gun violence:

Kenyan parents are fond of buying a number of things for their school going children once school reopens, but this can never prepare our parents like what is happening in the USA. The demand for bullet proof backpack is skyrocketing in a country shattered by gun violence in all spectrum of their society.  It is hard enough to have siblings, friends and neighbors falling victims to perennial violence due to gun attacks

For this University of Connecticut, J.T. Lewis has seen his younger brother, Jesse, killed in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. This is when his mother, Scarlett, gave him the dark-gray backpack, he said, she did not have to say a word.

“We just had a mutual understanding,” said Lewis, 19, who is running for a seat in the Connecticut state Senate.

Now he wears the armored backpack on campus because it makes him feel safer, even if it means he sweats a little more under the bulky load.

Despite the gains made in democracy and financial security in the west, Africa still remains one of the safest place for school children due to gun violence, and it is almost impossible for a Kenyan parent, leave alone any parent to imaging gifting their child an armored backpack for school.

For us, school is an extension of our social circles, where children not only learn, but they also meet and make some of their life long friends and partners not to meet their murderers.

As mass shootings become a tragic fact of life in the United States — at schools, stores, movies theaters and houses of worship — it’s not just the families of victims who are investing in protective gear.

In a dystopian development, a growing number of companies are offering bulletproof backpacks in back-to-school sales, marketing them to parents who are desperate to protect their children from gunmen.

In the past, some stores have reportedly sold out of the 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-defense company run by a former Israeli commando, Gabi Siboni, started selling a bulletproof backpack that can unfold into a larger covering.

“The backpack is designed first of all to be a very stylish and nice-looking backpack,” Siboni said. “And it has panels that protect you against bullets. It will increase your survival chances.”

Kenyan civilians have acquired 70,000 guns for personal use in the past two years even as private firearm ownership dropped among their counterparts in neighboring Uganda and Tanzania, a new global report has revealed.

Geneva-based Small Arms Survey says Kenyan civilians own 750,000 firearms up from 680,000 in 2016. Most of the guns are illegal having not been registered by the licensing authorities.

This makes Kenya’s cache of private guns the largest in East Africa amid rising gun attacks. Tanzania, whose population is eight million more, comes in a distant second with 427,000 guns in private hands, nearly half what Kenyan civilians have stacked up. The sharp rise in mostly illegal firearms acquisition and circulation in Kenya has defied efforts by authorities to mop up small arms that drive the wave of violent crimes, including banditry. This is a new threat and a new risk for parents and children in school since these usually have some way of infiltrating the society in ways not expected.

In the past, companies have been criticized for falsely claiming that their armored backpacks were certified by the National Institute of Justice, which oversees the body armor used by law enforcement. The agency, part of the Justice Department, has not certified, or even tested, the bulletproof backpacks and has no plans to do so, said Mollie Timmons, a department spokeswoman.

In a country like Kenya, which according to the ranks at 4th with crime levels of 91.25% which is 63% more than the USA which is ranked at 55.84% ranked at 3oth it is hard to imagine that our children are safe and motivated to go to school, create meaningful lives and careers out of themselves and not to buy armored bags.

In several recent Twitter posts, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, a Democratic presidential candidate, has held up bulletproof backpacks as a symbol of the broader problem of gun violence in the United States.

“Parents shouldn’t have to buy a bulletproof backpack for their child just to keep them safe in school,” she tweeted in July. “This shouldn’t be normal.”

But for Celeste Green, a senior at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, the backpacks seem like a necessary precaution.

The day before the shooting in El Paso, Green, 22, learned that a teenager in her hometown, Columbia, South Carolina, had threatened to “shoot up” a local school. When she saw the news, she thought of her younger sister, who is starting high school in the fall. Green sent her mother a few videos and hyperlinks with information about bulletproof backpacks.

“Immediately, she was like: ‘Where should I start? Where should I look?’” Green said. “There was no question.”

©2019 New York Times News Service

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