Bulletproof backpacks wouldn't have saved anyone

Sales of bulletproof backpacks have spiked almost 300 percent following a spate of school shootings and the recent attacks in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Yet, none of the backpacks currently on the market would have stopped a single rifle round coming from those gunmen.

Bulletproof backpacks and backpack inserts for students are for sale online and on the shelves at major retailers including Walmart, Office Depot, Home Depot and Bed Bath and Beyond. Made by companies such as Bullet Blocker, Guard Dog and TuffyPacks, the backpacks retail for anywhere between $99 and $490.

“It's sad that we even have to consider a product like this, but it's the issue that we have to deal with now and hopefully we won't in the future," Steve Naremore, CEO of TuffyPacks, said.

What makes these backpacks bulletproof is a back panel or insert made of a flexible ballistic fiber material rated “Level IIIA” by the National Institute of Justice, certified to stop bullets from handguns.
 
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El Paso shooting leaves 20 dead, more than two dozen injured
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El Paso shooting leaves 20 dead, more than two dozen injured
Law enforcement from different agencies work the scene of a shooting at a shopping mall in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. Multiple people were killed and one person was in custody after a shooter went on a rampage at a shopping mall, police in the Texas border town of El Paso said. (AP Photo/Rudy Gutierrez)
Law enforcement work the scene of a shooting at a shopping mall in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. Multiple people were killed and one person was in custody after a shooter went on a rampage at a shopping mall, police in the Texas border town of El Paso said. (AP Photo/Rudy Gutierrez)
Police tape strung across an intersection behind the scene of a shooting at a shopping mall in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. Multiple people were killed and one person was in custody after a shooter went on a rampage at a shopping mall, police in the Texas border town of El Paso said. (AP Photo/Rudy Gutierrez)
An El Paso police officer talks to a store employee following a shooting at a shopping mall in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. Multiple people were killed and one person was in custody after a shooter went on a rampage at a shopping mall, police in the Texas border town of El Paso said. (AP Photo/Rudy Gutierrez)
Law enforcement officers make their way along a walkway to the scene of a shooting at a shopping mall in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. Several people were killed in the shooting Saturday in a busy shopping area in the Texas border town. (AP Photo/Rudy Gutierrez)
People walk out of an elementary school after family members were asked to reunite following a shooting at a shopping mall in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. Multiple people were killed and one person was in custody after a shooter went on a rampage at a shopping mall, police in the Texas border town of El Paso said. (AP Photo/Rudy Gutierrez)
An El Paso police officer checks vehicles along a roadway near the scene of a shooting at a shopping mall in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. Several people were killed in the shooting Saturday in a busy shopping area in the Texas border town. (AP Photo/Rudy Gutierrez)
Ambulances stage in the parking near the scene of a shooting at a shopping mall in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. Several people were killed in the shooting Saturday in a busy shopping area in the Texas border town. (AP Photo/Rudy Gutierrez)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers stage along a street near the scene of a shooting at a shopping mall in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. Several people were killed in the shooting Saturday in a busy shopping area in the Texas border town. (AP Photo/Rudy Gutierrez)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers gather near the scene of a shooting at a shopping mall in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. Multiple people were killed and one person was in custody after a shooter went on a rampage at a shopping mall, police in the Texas border town of El Paso said. (AP Photo/Rudy Gutierrez)
People walk into an elementary school to look for loved ones near the site of a shooting at a shopping mall in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. Several people were killed in the shooting Saturday in a busy shopping area in the Texas border town. (AP Photo/Rudy Gutierrez)
A law enforcement officer walks near the scene of a shooting at a shopping mall in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. Multiple people were killed and one person was in custody after a shooter went on a rampage at a shopping mall, police in the Texas border town of El Paso said. (AP Photo/Rudy Gutierrez)
Law enforcement officers arrive near the scene of a shooting at a shopping mall in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. Several people were killed in the shooting Saturday in a busy shopping area in the Texas border town. (AP Photo/Rudy Gutierrez)
A police officer stands outside a home in Allen, Texas, believed to be associated with a mass shooting at a busy shopping area in the border town of El Paso, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Jake Bleiberg)
Agentes de varias corporaciones se presentan en el lugar donde se registró un tiroteo en un centro comercial de El Paso, Texas, el sábado 3 de agosto de 2019. (AP Foto/Rudy Gutierrez)
Agentes de varias corporaciones se presentan en el lugar donde se registró un tiroteo en un centro comercial de El Paso, Texas, el sábado 3 de agosto de 2019. (AP Foto/Rudy Gutierrez)
Edie Hallberg, left, speaks with police officers outside the Walmart store as she's looking for her missing mother Angie Englisbee, 87, who was in the store during the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. Multiple people were killed and one person was in custody after a shooter went on a rampage at a shopping mall, police in the Texas border town of El Paso said. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)
Edie Hallberg cries while speaking to the police outside the Walmart store as she's looking for her missing mother Angie Englisbee, 87, who was in the store during the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. Multiple people were killed and one person was in custody after a shooter went on a rampage at a shopping mall, police in the Texas border town of El Paso said. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)
Texas state police cars block the access to the Walmart store in the aftermath of a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. Multiple people were killed and one person was in custody after a shooter went on a rampage at a shopping mall, police in the Texas border town of El Paso said. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)
An El Paso Police officer stands guard outside a Walmart store in the aftermath of a deadly shooting in El Paso, Texas, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)
From left, Melody Stout, Hannah Payan, Aaliyah Alba, Sherie Gramlich and Laura Barrios comfort each other during a vigil for victims of the shooting Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. A young gunman opened fire in an El Paso, Texas, shopping area during the busy back-to-school season, leaving multiple people dead and more than two dozen injured. (AP Photo/John Locher)
People embrace during a vigil for victims of the shooting Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. A young gunman opened fire in an El Paso, Texas, shopping area during the busy back-to-school season, leaving multiple people dead and more than two dozen injured. (AP Photo/John Locher)
People attend a vigil for victims of the shooting Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. A young gunman opened fire in an El Paso, Texas, shopping area during the busy back-to-school season, leaving multiple people dead and more than two dozen injured. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Melody Stout and Hannah Payan comfort each other during a vigil for victims of the shooting that occurred earlier in the day at a shopping center, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
People gather in Juarez, Mexico, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, in a vigil for the 3 Mexican nationals who were killed in an El Paso shopping-complex shooting. Twenty people were killed and more than two dozen injured in a shooting Saturday in a busy shopping area in the Texas border town of El Paso, the state’s governor said. (AP Photo/Christian Chavez)
People gather in Juarez, Mexico, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, in a vigil for the 3 Mexican nationals who were killed in an El Paso shopping-complex shooting. Twenty people were killed and more than two dozen injured in a shooting Saturday in a busy shopping area in the Texas border town of El Paso, the state’s governor said. (AP Photo/Christian Chavez)
From left, Samuel Lerma, Arzetta Hodges and Desiree Quintanar attend a vigil for victims of the deadly shooting that occurred earlier in the day at a shopping center Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
People gather in Juarez, Mexico, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, in a vigil for the 3 Mexican nationals who were killed in an El Paso shopping-complex shooting. Twenty people were killed and more than two dozen injured in a shooting Saturday in a busy shopping area in the Texas border town of El Paso, the state’s governor said. (AP Photo/Christian Chavez)
People gather in Juarez, Mexico, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, in a vigil for the 3 Mexican nationals who were killed in an El Paso shopping-complex shooting. Twenty people were killed and more than two dozen injured in a shooting Saturday in a busy shopping area in the Texas border town of El Paso, the state’s governor said. (AP Photo/Christian Chavez)
A police officer stands in the doorway to a Walmart where a gunman opened fire in a shopping complex Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
A woman sits next to a sign with a message that reads: ¨No More Guns! Make Love¨, in Juarez, Mexico, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, where people are gathering for a vigil for the 3 Mexican nationals who were killed in an El Paso shopping-complex shooting. Twenty people were killed and more than two dozen injured in a shooting Saturday in a busy shopping area in the Texas border town of El Paso, the state’s governor said. (AP Photo/Christian Chavez)
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But to block the kind of piercing ammunition frequently fired by military-style rifles in recent mass and school shootings requires protection containing a hard ceramic or metallic plate weighing several pounds, with a “Level IV” rating.

The efficacy of bulletproof backpacks being marketed to students and parents was put to the test by Scott Reitz, a firearms instructor with the Los Angeles Police Department, in a demonstration for NBC News Los Angeles.

The “Guard Dog Security ProShield II” bulletproof backpack, rated Level IIIA, was mounted to a mannequin torso in a t-shirt and placed on a firing range.

Reitz fired at the backpack with a 9 mm pistol and with a .45-caliber handgun.Both shots penetrated the backpack’s exterior and inner fabric, but were stopped by the back panel armor.

Then, Reitz fired two shots from an AR-15 rifle, used by the U.S. military and in some recent mass shootings. Both went completely through the back panel and, with a flicker of the shirt, exited the mannequin’s back.

Simple physics explains how the bullets went through the bag.

“Rifle projectiles present a threat level greater than handgun and even shotgun ammunition," Peter Diaczuk, professor of forensics at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said. "This is due to the higher velocity and consequently greater kinetic energy of a rifle bullet.”

Yasir Sheikh, president of Skyline USA, which makes the Guard Dog backpacks, said in a statement to NBC News, “When considering protection against rifle round ammunition, that entails a thick, heavy ceramic plate which is not practical for daily carry use, especially when considering a child or young adult. Our backpacks are rated for Level IIIA, which is often the same protection used by local law enforcement.”

Despite the lack of protection against rifle ammunition, Diaczuk and other firearms experts don’t have any recommendations against using the backpacks.

“If I were sending a child to school, and the extra weight of the ballistic panels were not a burden, I would favor the protection,” Diaczuk said.

Almost 40 percent of adults say they’re “very concerned” about a shooting at their kid’s school, according to a new Morning Consult poll commissioned by NBC News. And almost half of adults say they would buy a bulletproof backpack for their child.

John Drury recently bought a bulletproof backpack insert for his son, Peyton. They live about 45 miles from Dayton, Ohio, where a gunman killed nine people last week.

“I never would have to walk around with a bulletproof backpack to feel safe in school," Peyton said.

Drury says the backpack’s price is worth the peace of mind.

“At the end of the day, I want my son to be able to come home from school,” he said.

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