Bulletproof backpacks: Israeli firm’s answer to school shootings

Israeli company ArmorMe has developed a normal-looking backpack with not-so-normal capabilities. Profits will go to school safety advocates.

By Adi Pick, Calcalist

In 2018, 114 people were killed or injured in school shootings in the U.S., according to Education Week, a non-profit journal covering education-related topics in the United States.

To address the issue, Israeli company ArmorMe has developed a normal-looking backpack with not-so-normal capabilities: it comes with one or two kevlar panels, making it bulletproof on one or two sides.

A single paneled backpack provides coverage from neck to knee when worn in front, while the double-paneled backpack provides coverage for both sides of the torso. It also comes in five colors.

Ret. Israeli Defense Forces Colonel Gabi Siboni co-founded ArmorMe following the Las Vegas massacre in 2017 and started developing the backpacks in early 2018, around the time of the Parkland school shooting which killed 17 people in Florida.

While ArmorMe understands that this may only be a band-aid solution to gun violence issues as a whole, Siboni said that the company is currently in the final stages of a partnership with a school safety non-profit organization, and proceeds from each backpack will go to the organization.

“We didn’t create the reality of mass shootings, but we are reacting to it,” Siboni said in a Wednesday interview with Calcalist.

Since the Columbine shooting in 1999, 187,000 students attending at least 193 elementary or secondary schools have experienced an on-campus shooting during school hours in the U.S., according to a Washington Post report updated in March. At least 113 of these incidents involved only a pistol, according to the report.

Besides its bulletproof capabilities, the backpack comes with a computer compartment for a 15-inch laptop, side pockets on each side, and weighs between 1.4 kilograms to 2.2, depending on the number of kevlar panels, Siboni said.

While the backpacks offer official protection against bullets fired by handguns, in the event of a more serious weapon, full protection “can’t be guaranteed, but still dramatically increases the survival rate,” Siboni said.

However, ArmorMe developed the backpacks as an accessory that offers protection, not just as a bulletproof vest with straps. In fact, when the panels are opened in to fit like a vest, “the contents inside the backpack won’t spill,” Siboni explained.

There are other companies selling bulletproof backpacks, including BulletBlocker, though ArmorMe’s backpacks are slightly more affordable: ArmoreMe’s backpack retails at $160, for the single-paneled knapsack.

The company is currently working on more designs, patterns and computer bags, which Siboni expects to hit the market sometime over the next three months.