First came 15 deaths at Columbine in 1999 — one of the most shocking school shootings in recent history. It was enough to prompt Joe Curran, a former cop, to fasten his kids' school backpacks with material from his old bulletproof vest.
Then came Virginia Tech and the shooting deaths of 32 people in 2007. Curran started sharing his concept with friends and family in an effort to keep the kids in his circle safe in case of a similar school shooting. They encouraged him to take his idea into business, leading to the creation of his company BulletBlocker.
For about $200, a parent can purchase a backpack for their child that serves as a bullet-resistant shield. The BulletBlocker NIJ IIIA Bulletproof Child Safety Backpack will protect against bullets from handguns like a .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum.
The company encourages the children who wear the packs to crouch down behind them, using it to cover their heads and vital organs, in the horrific event that a shooter enters their classroom.
Since the most recent tragedy, a school shooting in Newtown, Conn. that claimed 26 lives, BulletBlocker, based in Nutting Lake, Mass., reports a 300 to 400 percent increase in sales of its "personal ballistic protection" products, including backpacks, as petrified parents are desperate to protect their kids.
"Before the shooting, we would sell maybe 10 to 15 a week," BulletBlocker spokesman Elmar Uy told Metro. "Yesterday, we did maybe 50 or 60 in one day."
Uy said the company does sell products with a BulletBlocker Panel that can protect against assault weapons, like the one used in Newtown, but the material is extremely heavy and will severely weigh down a child's backpack.
Though the products have been on the market since 2007, Uy said BulletBlocker hasn't received word that its backpacks have been used in an actual shooting.
"I hope our product is never tested in a real life situation," Uy said. "But if it should arise, and if my own children were involved, I would be more comfortable knowing they had something at their disposal, just in case."