In the next few weeks, British children will be returning to school to begin the new school year and continue their education. Their American counterparts will also be going back to their schools in order to continue their learning, but with a major difference, some of these students will be wearing bulletproof backpacks. This is not a joke, bulletproof backpacks for school children are currently on sale along with other items such as bulletproof jackets that have been described as “quite fashion forward”, what a relief!!
A back to school segment featured on the programme “Mornings with Maria” on the Fox Business Network was aired recently, where they marketed ballistic clothing made by MC Armor. The light-hearted section has been widely criticised, notably for its use of the song “Bulletproof” by artist La Roux. It also doesn’t address the problem of school shootings and how to prevent these. Host Maria Bartiromo noted that “It’s incredible that this has come to this, though – that we need bulletproof clothing” but rather than raise the issue of gun control, something that would go down like a ton of bricks on a Fox Network production, she makes it seem like ballistic clothing is the solution to the problem.
The fact that bulletproof backpacks for kids are on sale points toward an endemic problem in American society that those with the power are continuing to ignore. Between 01 January 2018 and the 25 May 2018 there were 23 school shootings where someone was hurt or killed, staggeringly, that works out to over one a week. The worst of these terrible shootings was the attack in Parkland, Florida where 17 people went to Stoneman Douglas School that morning not to return. In the aftermath of this shooting, student survivors created the social media movement #NeverAgain, and aimed to force legislative action in order to prevent similar shootings. They have actively condemned politicians and lawmakers who oppose gun control legislation as well as those who receive contributions and support from the National Rifle Association (NRA) in return for opposing gun control reforms. Throughout their campaigning to make schools safe, the students, most of whom are aged 17 and under, should be commended for their maturity, bravery and dedication to the cause. They have shown countless politicians that they mean business and that they shouldn’t be disregarded as disgruntled children. The crux of the matter is, these students are campaigning to make THEIR schools safer, they are the ones at risk and their concerns should be listened to, rather than be dismissed as they were by TV show host Laura Ingraham among others.
Therefore, bulletproof backpacks have been created to make children safer at school, and yes, they probably stop bullets better than your standard backpack, but it does not make schools safer. What does make schools, and America in general, safer, is the removal of, or at least the control of, firearms. This is a very complicated matter, highlighted by a quick Google search of the phrase “US gun debate”, and something that will take time to be implemented. Sending children to school with the same level, and in some cases more, ballistic protection than some soldiers is both shocking and absolutely terrifying. The idea is completely absurd.
Speaking of absurd ideas, as with most of President Trump’s “great” and “inspirational” thoughts, the plan to arm teachers will not solve the problem of shootings either. Putting more guns into a situation will never solve a problem, unless the problem is that you have a smaller gun collection than your rival. Guns are the issue, and unless gun control laws are phased into being, sadly, the trend of mass shootings will continue. These gun law reforms don’t have to be complete and sweeping to begin with; small changes can be made and brought in slowly, things like not allowing military grade weapons to be sold to members of the public, or to 16 year olds. To Trump’s credit, he has banned bump stocks, such as the one used in the Las Vegas shooting but in the grand scheme of things this is only a very small step, and this only happened after a deadly mass shooting. Legislators need to pre-empt these and ban or change laws so that they never have to do it in hindsight.
The Thing Is, gun culture is deeply embedded within American society and with many seeing it as their constitutional right, an outdated argument if ever I’ve seen one, this isn’t going to change. Unfortunately, I don’t think that the number of deadly shootings will decrease in the US in the near future if nothing changes. Even with bulletproof clothing being made available to the general public, shootings won’t be less lethal; the only factor that will reduce the number of fatalities in these abhorrent attacks is the removal of easily accessible firearms. The #NeverAgain movement has made some headway, but the opposition to this commendable idea is saddening, all these people want is to be able to live their lives without the fear of finding themselves as a victim of a shooting. Yes, the 2nd Amendment gives Americans the right to bear arms and defend their land, but this was in response to Native American attacks over two centuries ago, and should be treated in such a way. And for those who argue that you can’t change the Constitution, my first piece of evidence to prove that you can is the word “Amendment”, which means change, and secondly, that the amendment in question is the 2nd one of many.
Hopefully, we won’t see another Parkland style school shooting again this year, or next year, or in the years that follow. But without legislative change, the threat of shootings like these happening again looms large, and until this is changed, parents will be sending their children to school closely resembling front-line troops, rather than young people on their way to school.