School shootings in America have proliferated. In response, individuals and for-profit companies have developed a plethora of products aimed [pun intended] at reducing the carnage. Are they necessary? Do they work? If one of them saves a life, it may turn out to have been a worthwhile purchase, whatever the price. But I can’t help thinking that these defensive approaches, while well intentioned, and perhaps effective in some instances, miss the point. It’s clear that in 2019 America, creative minds, inventive marketers and politicians call themselves ready to address everything about gun violence—everything, that is, but the guns.
Instead of focusing on reducing the number of guns in circulation and enacting stricter laws for owning guns, this is what passes for protecting students from school shootings. Do we really have to live this way?
Stop the bleed
Stop the Bleed is a national awareness campaign intended to encourage bystanders to become trained, equipped and empowered to help in a bleeding emergency before professional help arrives. Through the program, healthcare professionals teach effective blood-stopping techniques to teachers, parents, students and members of the general public. [I’m not saying this is a bad idea; I’m just saying that it’s very sad that there’s a need for it.]
A woman whose neighbor was shot and killed in an attempted robbery has started a company that makes bulletproof hoodies to keep people of all ages safe. The California company, Wonder Hoodie, now produces the bulletproof protection in smaller sizes for young children and teens in response to the rash of school shootings.
Bullet-resistant classroom blankets
Vox describes Door Shield is a panel of “soft armor” — used as cover by police SWAT teams when they raid buildings and exchange gunfire. You nail the shield to a classroom door. If a shooter breaks into the school, teachers lock the door, and with one hard tug on a canvas strap, you release the bullet-resistant panel, which rolls down and covers the door. “Even a child can operate it,” claims the manufacturer. The list price per blanket is $1,995—pretty pricey for a school with lots of doors. The manufacturer says, “It’s cost versus value: the cost of [Door Shield] versus the value of a life.”
Billed as a solution for “schools that don’t want teachers to carry guns,” the PepperBall launcher is a flashlight-shaped weapon that shoots bullets filled with pepper spray. Originally, it was marketed to campers and truck drivers, who wanted non-lethal weapons to carry on the road. After the shootings at Parkland, the manufacturer saw teachers as an additional market for the product.
Bullet resistant backpacks
The manufacturer calls its armor-plated backpacks, “the backpack that will save your life.” They retail for between $150 and $500. Originally aimed at law-enforcement personnel, after a recent school shooting, the manufacturer began designing a kid-sized version.
Rocks, bats and hockey pucks
While they’re not high-tech inventions, in the category of “Whose Brilliant Idea Was This,” are the primitive weapons that some school administrators have put in classrooms for kids to use in case a shooter shows up. Oakland University in Michigan gave out 3,500 hockey pucks to faculty members and students in November 2018 to throw at a gunman. Since 2016, a Pennsylvania school district has kept 5-gallon buckets of river rocks in classrooms. “If an armed intruder attempts to gain entrance to any of our classrooms, they will face a classroom full of students armed with rocks. And they will be stoned,” David Helsel, superintendent of the Blue Mountain School District in Schuylkill County, has said. Finally, Millcreek Township School District Superintendent William Hall wanted to show that safety policies had changed from hiding from a shooter to running, fighting, and surviving. So he distributed 600 mini baseball bats, and encouraged staff to keep one in every classroom of the Pennsylvania district’s 11 schools.
Fear sells. Gun laws, apparently, do not.