Do bulletproof backpacks work?

Do bulletproof backpacks work?
With school safety a hot topic around the country, some parents are turning to bulletproof backpacks to send their students to class with extra protection. (Photo source: WDAM)

JONES COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - With school safety a hot topic around the country, some parents are turning to bulletproof backpacks to send their students to class with extra protection.  The backpacks can be pricey, so with the help of the Jones County Sheriff's Department, we put the backpacks to the test.

WDAM 7 purchased a Guard Dog Security Pro Shield Bulletproof Backpack off Amazon for $119 in the days following the mass shooting at the Florida High School last month. In a quick web search Tuesday, many backpacks were on sale for close to $200.

The backpack is comparable in weight and durability of a bulletproof vest worn by Jones County deputies, which is Level IIIA certified by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) for Ballistic Testing.

According to paperwork provided with the delivery, the Guard Dog Security backpack has been tested by an independent lab certified by the NIJ and the product meets the requirements for "NIJ Level IIA."

Justice Department spokesman Devin O'Malley released this statement in regards to the testing:

"The National Institute of Justice—the research, development, and evaluation agency of the Department of Justice—has never tested nor certified ballistic items, such as backpacks, blankets, or briefcases, other than body armor for law enforcement. Marketing that claims NIJ testing or certification for such products is false."

To test the backpack, we placed a book inside and put it on boxes filled with about 40 gallons of water, what Major Jamie Tedford could be compared to the size a kindergartner.

Then, deputies fired twelve rounds of six different caliber bullets, two a piece. The armored panel in the front of the backpack stopped bullets from a .22-caliber long rifle, 9-millimeter pistol, .40-caliber pistol, .45-caliber pistol and a .357-caliber revolver.

"It's not penetrating through the fabric, but it is at that force of the bullet that is causing the damage to the school book," Tedford said.

In the final two rounds, we used a .223-caliber rifle, similar to what was used to kill seventeen people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. We also added two more school books to the backpack, to measure impact.

The bullet pierced through the panel and first school book, but was stopped by the second book, lodged in the hard cover.

When we removed the books, the second bullet sliced through the backpack, puncturing the boxes full of water.

"It's very eye-opening," said Tedford. "Seeing the .223 round, it is very concerning for us to know what type of damage it would do to an individual wearing the backpack or body armor."

Tedford said the impact from the bullets could injure students with the backpack on, but the students would still be able to have a chance to get to safety.  He said if a potential shooter is approaching a student, the backpack should be placed in front of his or her body, to protect the vital organs. But, the student is running from gunfire, it would be best to wear it like any other backpack.

"I do believe, seeing the impact of each caliber, it would disorient or even make you stumble, but you'd still be able to get out still," said Tedford.  "I do believe that it would be a very, very valuable tool for students to look at purchasing and have on them at all times."