SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - Safety is on the minds of many parents as their kids head back to school, and as school shootings become more frequent, back-to-school shopping may look a little different.
“They definitely should be discussing with them the possibility of these things happening and what their response should be if these do happen,” Sioux Falls Police Department School Resource Officer Sergeant Adam Petersen said.
From Parkland, Florida, to Santa Fe, Texas, to Harrisburg High School, school shootings have become a part of our daily lives.
“We’ve seen that time and time again that it doesn't matter the size of the city, the populous, the location, if they're going to happen, they can happen anywhere,” Petersen said.
Over the years, teachers, politicians and parents have looked for ways to keep kids safe.
“These backpacks, you can buy them so they look like regular backpacks. Like most people probably, we heard about them more after Parkland shooting last year down in Florida,” Petersen said.
Since then, more people are considering protection for their children like a bulletproof backpack. But, looking around the halls of a school, you probably wouldn't notice who has one and who does not.
“You know there's a lot of planning and coordination typically that goes into events that happen around the country. I suppose if somebody knew that someone had a bulletproof backpack over somebody that didn't, it may make them a target,” David Hughes said.
Hughes is the owner of Blue Collar Tactical. He has sold a few bulletproof backpacks in his store.
“They were slow moving. You know we've had a couple events happen in our area. Probably the most recent one was in Harrisburg a few years ago, and I would rather not having them fly out the door because there's such a demand and need here because of bad things that are happening,” Hughes said.
Thankfully people have not seen very many school shootings locally.
“Both of my kids have the Guard Dog bulletproof backpack. They’re an investment, I think, into your child. It’s going to grow with them through middle school and they're built tough,” Hughes said.
KSFY News bought the Guard Dog security level 3A bulletproof backpack at Office Depot. Inside are layers of Kevlar designed to stop bullets and save a life.
KSFY tested its own backpack with a variety of guns: a 9 mm glock, a .40-caliber glock, a .45-caliber Springfield, a 12-gauge shotgun and a 223 AR-15.
Hughes expects the backpack will stop all of the guns except for the AR-15.
KSFY started with the 9 mm.
“We have two holes entering the ballistic armor. Here’s the back of the backpack that would be against the students back, we have no exit holes,” Hughes said.
Up next was the .40-caliber glock.
“The backpack so far has been successful against the 9 mm and 40 Smith and Wesson, just as the information plate claimed that came with the backpack,” Hughes said.
The same was true for the .45-caliber Springfield.
“The 12-gauge, 12-pellet buckshot, I’m very interested to see what this is going to do to the backpack,” Hughes said.
We fired two shots. Each buckshot contains 12 pellets. It was easy to see the force and power of those two shots.
“From that range of about seven yards, if you took that with no protection, your chance of survival is very minimal,” Hughes said.
The backpack stopped the buckshot.
“Twelve of these would just do insurmountable damage. Without that backpack you wouldn't be able to survive,” Hughes said.
Then we tested the backpack's capability with an AR-15, the same type of gun used in the Parkland shooting on Valentine’s Day. The bullets ripped through the backpack and hit the ground behind it.
“You turn the backpack over. I know we didn't have any penetrations with the 12-gauge. Here we have four of our rounds and the other, the fifth one,” Hughes said.
No surprise since the backpack isn't designed to stop that kind of bullet. Even though the backpack passed all the other tests, experts said whether or not the backpack will save a life all depends on where it is.
“If the student doesn't have it, it's not going to obviously help them if it's in their locker. If they're wearing it on their back and running away it might be helpful. Really that's hard to say. It’s better than nothing. I will say that,” Petersen said.
“It’s a very sad thing because school should be a safe place for kids to go and learn and feel comfortable. Events like that are making the school less safe for our kids, and it's always a concern when you have to have now for parents,” Hughes said.
Experts said it is important to do research.
“Talk to your kids about what they have. Don’t give them a false sense of security just because they have this backpack that they think is going to block bullets, it's a bullet magnet, something like that. It’s not. So definitely have that conversation with the kids about that,” Petersen said.
Hughes said this test re-enforces why he got his kids bulletproof backpacks.
“I want to do everything I can to possibly protect my kids against anything that can possibly happen to them. That’s just the parental instinct. I did what I could to keep my kids safe, and it just gives me piece of mind and helps me sleep at night knowing I did what I could,” Hughes said.
The backpack that KSFY tested ended up filled with bullet holes and the Kevlar inside was shredded.
We want to know what you think. Would you buy your child a bulletproof backpack? You can take the poll here.