Some parents considering 'bulletproof' school supplies for kids

A Clackamas County Sheriff's Office deputy fires a 9mm handgun at a bullet-resistant laptop case created by a University of Oregon student. It stopped bullets from the gun as well as from a .22-caliber handgun, a .45-caliber handgun and a 12-guage shotgun. But it didn't stop bullets from an AR-15. (KATU Photo)

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Umpqua Community College.

Sandy Hook Elementary.

They are names that need no further explanation. Everyone immediately knows what happened there and in many other places across the country.

The specter of school shootings like these has led to all kinds of security measures for our nation's schools. Some people believe bullet-resistant school supplies should be part of that security.

University of Oregon student Jesse Jimerson created a product called the ZipShield, a bullet-resistant laptop case.

"It's a neoprene sleeve like you would usually use, but it has bullet-resistant panels in it that can protect you from gun violence," Jimerson said.

KATU profiled Jimerson's product earlier this year. There are other products on the market as well. Bullet-resistant backpacks, or panels you can slip into a backpack, are some of the most common. But some school security experts are highly skeptical of such products.

"Would they actually protect you if there was a school shooting, which is a rare event," asked Ken Trump, who has no relation to the president and has worked in the field of school security for decades. "It's possible, but with the caliber of weapons involved, this may not only give you a false sense of security but it simply may not work."

KATU enlisted the help of the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office to test some bullet-resistant panels from Safe Life Defense, meant to be placed in backpacks. A deputy fired five different weapons at the panels: a .22-caliber handgun, 9mm handgun, .45-caliber handgun, AR-15, and 12-gauge shotgun.

The panels had a bullet-resistance level of 'IIIA.' Deputies suspected the panels would protect against the handguns but that an AR-15 would be too powerful. As for the shotgun, they suspected no ammunition would make it through the panel but the force of the blast would propel the panel some distance.

They were right in their predictions for all five weapons, which is in line with the resistance level advertised for the panels. Although there is armor available that would protect against ammunition from an AR-15, it is usually heavy or expensive or both.

Advocates of bullet-resistant products say they're well aware of their limitations.

"I would tell anyone with my product or any other to know exactly what it is and what it's capable of," said Jimerson. "It's not a 'bad guy off-switch' at all."

Security expert Ken Trump encourages parents to think carefully before purchasing any kind of bullet-resistant product.

"Are we providing a false sense of security for kids and more so for parents," he said. "The challenge is to take reasonable security measures. If we cross that line of what's reasonable in prevention and preparedness, we actually risk doing more harm."

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