The Washington Post - 13.08.2019

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makers should focus on prevent-
ing gun violence through gun-
control measures.
“This is pure marketing to
exploit fear,” said Matthew J.
Mayer, a professor at Rutgers
University whose research focus-
es on school violence prevention.
“We have no evidence that these
things work. They’re giving kids
and their parents a false sense of
Mass shootings, he added, “are
fluid, rapidly developing, unpre-
dictable events.” The chances
that a child would have such a
backpack handy at precisely the
right moment — and quickly
calibrate the shooter’s position
and the bullets’ potential trajec-
tory to position a backpack — is
“something so beyond reality
that it’s just not logical.”
Even so, demand for such
products continues to grow. Ana-
lysts do not yet have hard num-
bers, but they estimate that the
market for bulletproof consumer
gear is in the tens of millions of
dollars. School security, mean-
while, has ballooned into a
$2.7 billion-a-year business.

‘These are scary times’
For years, the bulk of George
Tunis’s business came from the
U.S. government and military.
His company, Hardwire, created
armor for bridges, police cars
and tactical vehicles used in the
Iraq and Afghanistan wars. But
after the 2012 shooting at Sandy
Hook Elementary School that
killed 20 children, Tunis shifted
his focus.
“Sandy Hook was when we
realized we had to put the armor
inside,” Tunis said. “No matter
how fast the police get there, it’s
not enough. The people inside
are the first responders. We’ve
got to give them something.”
He began making whiteboards
that double as bullet-resistant
shields, which he has installed at
thousands of schools, hospitals,
apartment buildings and restau-
rants. His clients include the
University of Maryland Eastern
Shore and Seacrets, a popular
nightclub and bar in Ocean City,
where two dozen bulletproof
shields masquerade as vodka and
rum ads.
“If you’re responsible, you’re
going to protect yourself,” said
Tunis, who is based in Pocomoke
City, Md. “I know there are
naysayers, but if these products
deter just one shooting, I’ll take
The company also makes bul-
letproof inserts for backpacks
that are particularly popular dur-
ing back-to-school season and
the winter holidays.
“Every year, it’s the same: Par-
ents buying shields for their sons
and daughters, and for their
children’s teachers,” Tunis said. “I
hate to say it, but demand keeps
growing, incident to incident.”
John Drury, a truck driver in
Cincinnati, decided to buy his
16-year-old son a ballistic back-
pack insert after the Dayton
shooting, which occurred
30 miles from his home.
“These are scary times,” the
49-year-old said, adding that he
thinks lawmakers should focus
on mental health issues, not gun
control. “But this backpack —
well, it brings me a little peace of

sold out a few times this year.”
The company’s products — like
virtually every bulletproof back-
pack on the market — are adver-
tised as meeting “Ballistic Level
IIIA” standards, which means
they can withstand bullets from
handguns and revolvers. They do
not, however, guard against mili-
tary-style weapons such as the
ones used in Texas and Ohio.
Furthermore, the products —
which often are tested indepen-
dently by the companies selling
them — are not vetted by the
National Institute of Justice, an
arm of the Justice Department
that certifies body armor for law
enforcement officers.
The institute “has never tested
nor certified ballistic items, such
as backpacks, blankets, or brief-
cases,” Justice Department
spokeswoman Kelly Laco said in
a statement.
Academics who study mass
shootings say there is little, if any,
proof that bullet-resistant prod-
ucts make children safer. In-
stead, they say, schools and law-

“Yes,” he finally agreed. “If I get
shot in my hand, at least I won’t

Designed for schoolchildren
Sales have been rising steadily
at Guard Dog Security in San-
ford, Fla., which introduced its
first ballistic backpack in 2013.
This year it introduced a smaller
version, which starts at $99 and

is sold online by Walmart and
Home Depot. It comes in hot
pink and teal, and it weighs
20 ounces.
“The primary goal was to make
it lightweight for schoolchil-
dren,” said Yasir Sheikh, the com-
pany’s president. “We’ve already

need them to, so this is the best
we can do.”
She went online and paid $
for a ballistic insert that her son’s
grandmother will sew into his
regular backpack.
Then came the hard part:
Explaining the decision to her
son. She told him that if a shooter
came into his school, he could
hold his backpack in front of his

body for protection.
“But what if they shoot my
hand?” he asked.
“I said, ‘That would hurt a
lot,’ ” Donahue recalled. “ ‘But it’s
better than them shooting you in
the head or the heart.’ ”
He was quiet for a moment.

ters on them. Naremore said he
was using licensed fabric for
those items, but “there’s a stigma
anytime you have ‘bullets’ and
‘kids’ in the same sentence.”

‘At least I won’t die’
After months of deliberation,
Raquel Donahue bought a bullet-
resistant backpack insert for her
6-year-old son. She and her son’s
father, an Iraq War veteran, be-
gan discussing the idea last
March after eight students and
two teachers were killed in a
school shooting in Santa Fe, Tex.,
less than 50 miles from their
home. After the mass shooting in
El Paso on Aug. 3 left 22 people
dead, they decided it was time.
“We know it’s not a magical
device, but he’s starting first
grade and we want to feel a little
better about putting him on a
school bus each day,” said Dona-
hue, 38, a librarian at Prairie
View A&M University near Hous-
ton. “What we really need is gun
reform. But our lawmakers are
not moving at the speed parents


The bulletproof panels are de-
signed to withstand multiple
rounds from a handgun — and
two of this season’s bestsellers
are emblazoned with Disney
princesses and Avengers super-
“Here’s our demographic: par-
ents with kids,” said Steve Nare-
more, founder of TuffyPacks, a
Houston-based company that
sells bulletproof backpack in-
serts. “It’s a real morbid niche.”
And a growing one: Sales have
increased each year since 2016.
This is the United States in
2019, a place where mass shoot-
ings have become so common
that consumers are buying bul-
letproof backpacks, clipboards
and three-ring binder inserts
that they hope will protect them
from gunfire. Retailers across the
country say they have seen grow-
ing demand for bullet-resistant
products for children — as well as
for doctors, teachers, flight atten-
dants and taxi drivers — giving
rise to an industry of ballistic
goods for everyday Americans,
although there is little evidence
that the products are effective.
For the first time, Office Max
and Office Depot have included
bulletproof backpacks among
their back-to-school offerings,
while online retailers are market-
ing bulletproof whiteboards,
chair cushions and kids’ puffer
vests that tap into a sense of fear
and helplessness.
“So many of the things we’re
investing in today, whether it’s
smart-home technology or pro-
tective backpacks, are about safe-
ty and security,” said Marshal
Cohen, chief retail analyst for the
market research firm NPD
Group. “Every time we have one
of these incidents, it’s a reminder
of just how vulnerable we are.”
As a result, bulletproof prod-
ucts have become a thriving busi-
ness that picks up every time a
shooting rattles the nation.
Within hours of the recent
mass shootings in El Paso and
Dayton, Ohio, Leatherback Gear
— which sells backpacks that
convert into bulletproof vests —
saw a 12-fold increase in sales. “It
was all hands on deck all week-
end,” said Brad de Geus, who
founded the company with his
brother three years ago. “Every-
body’s fielding calls and emails.”
The company’s backpacks —
called “civilian one” and “tactical
one” — sell for $330 to $400.
Demand has been so high, de
Geus said, that the Costa Mesa,
Calif., company is releasing two
new styles, including a sporty
model for $280 and a smaller-
size children’s bag for $100.
“It’s just like having a fire
extinguisher or using a seat belt,”
he said. “These are personal de-
vices for life-threatening situa-
tions. It’s as simple as that.”
Naremore, of TuffyPacks, be-
gan making backpack inserts
three years ago after his daugh-
ter, a fourth-grade teacher in
Dallas, told him about active-
shooter drills at her school.
About 95 percent of his business,
he said, comes from parents.
He recently pulled branded
inserts with Disney princesses,
Marvel superheroes and Harry
Potter decals from his site after
Disney demanded that he stop
selling products with its charac-

Economy & Business


Deficit already exceeds

last year’s total figure

The U.S. fiscal deficit has
already exceeded the full-year
figure for last year, as spending
growth outpaces revenue.
The gap grew to $866.8 billion
in the first 10 months of the fiscal
year, up 27 percent from the same
period a year earlier, the Treasury
Department said in an emailed
statement on Monday. That’s
wider than last fiscal year’s
shortfall of $779 billion, which
was the largest federal deficit
since 2012.
So far in the fiscal year that
began Oct. 1, a revenue increase of
3 percent hasn’t kept pace with an
8 percent rise in spending. While
still a modest source of income,
tariffs imposed by the Trump
administration helped almost
double customs duties to

$57 billion in the period.
Corporate income-tax receipts
rose 3 percent between October
and July, while individual income
taxes gained 1 percent, according
to Treasury data.
The annual budget deficit is
expected to exceed $1 trillion
starting in 2022, the
Congressional Budget Office has
said. The nonpartisan agency is
scheduled to update its latest 10-
year budget and economic
forecasts on Aug. 21.
— Bloomberg News


Rite Aid announces
new chief executive

Rite Aid has chosen a former
insurance executive to replace
longtime chief executive John
Standley and try to right the
struggling drugstore chain.
The company said Monday that

Heyward Donigan will take over
immediately for Standley, who
had been CEO since 2010.
Donigan, 58, is a former
executive with Premera Blue
Cross. She most recently served as
CEO of Sapphire Digital, which
runs a technology platform that
helps people shop for care.
Donigan takes over a company
that runs nearly 2,500 drugstores
and lost $99.7 million in its first
quarter. Rite Aid’s board
approved a reverse stock split this
year to lift plummeting share
prices and keep the company on
the New York Stock Exchange.
Shares of Rite Aid, based in
Camp Hill, Pa., rose almost
3 percent at the opening bell.
— Associated Press

Tyson Foods said on Monday it
will rebuild its Holcomb, Kan.,
beef plant after a fire partly

destroyed the facility last week.
The meat processor said that full-
time, active employees would be
paid weekly until production
resumes. The company said the
plant will be down “indefinitely”
after the Friday night fire that put
about 3,800 people out of work.
The company plans to rebuild in
the same location. There were no
casualties reported in the fire,
and the cause is under

U.S. oil output from seven major
shale formations is expected to
rise by 85,000 barrels per day in
September, to 8.77 million, the
U.S. Energy Information
Administration said in its
monthly drilling productivity
report on Monday. The largest
change is forecast in the Permian
Basin of Texas and New Mexico,
where output is expected to climb
by 75,000 barrels per day, to
4.42 million in September.

Smithfield Foods, the world’s
largest pork processor, is
launching a line of soy-based
products under its Pure Farmland
brand, including burgers,
meatballs and breakfast patties,
according to a statement on
Monday. Big meat companies are
racing to catch up as plant-based
protein resonates with

L’Oreal must pay a California-
based start-up $91.4 million for
stealing its trade secrets, breaching
a contract and infringing on two
patents related to a popular system
that protects hair during bleaching
treatments, a federal jury ruled
Monday. Olaplex had accused the
French giant of stealing the secrets
in a meeting in California in 2015,
when the companies were in talks
for L’Oreal to buy the start-up.
L’Oreal, during a week-long trial in
Wilmington, Del., said it
independently conceived the use of

a critical acid in August 2014 and
developed its products on its own.

Amazon-backed food-delivery
service Deliveroo is pulling out of
Germany after more than four
years. The service will cease
German operations on Friday,
telling customers in an email
Monday that it can no longer offer
the desired “brilliant” service
standard. Deliveroo’s German
business is the latest victim in the
European food-delivery industry,
which has long suffered from
expensive competition that has
forced established players to
consolidate or close. Amazon
founder and chief executive Jeff
Bezos owns The Washington Post.
— From news services

8:30 a.m.: The Labor
Department releases the
consumer price index for July.


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UP $9.70 PER $1,000, 1.64% YIELD

$1=105.27 YEN; EURO=$1.

TOP: Employees go about their work at the Hardwire manufacturing facility in Pocomoke City, Md., where the products are designed to
protect people during shootings. ABOVE: Directions for emergency response shields include visuals to guide consumers on proper use.
The shields can be installed as advertising signs, whiteboards or placed inside backpacks, according to company founder George Tunis.

Buying into the notion of blocking a bullet

Mass shootings push fearful consumers, especially parents, to seek personal protection gear

“It’s just like having a fire extinguisher or using

a seat belt. These are personal devices for

life-threatening situations. It’s as simple as that.”
Brad de Geus, co-founder of Leatherback Gear
Free download pdf