Bulletproof Kids

By Matt Shea


Photo Courtesy of Amendment II

In December, the massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, threw the country into a deep depression, followed by a fiery debate about guns. As January brought the US six more school shootings, many “solutions” were proposed, from arming janitors to banning all guns, while companies hawking bulletproof blazers, suits, and even children’s clothes saw sales skyrocket. One of these vendors, Amendment II, has bulletproof backpacks starting at $300. I called the company's president Derek Williams to ask if business was still booming.

VICE: I assume from your company’s name that you really love the Second Amendment?
Derek Williams: We’re trying to develop products that save lives, but we all are concealed-weapons carriers, and we all believe firmly in the right to bear arms.

Do you feel that selling body armor somehow encourages people to buy more guns?
I can see that from outward appearances, it looks like we’re promoting the Second Amendment by selling body armor. But there is really no causal relationship between body armor and shootings other than the fact that the increase in shootings has caused people to want body armor. The reason I stress that is that we’ve had a lot of hate mail from those who say that we’re contributing to the problem of gun violence. 

You sell something called “designer armor.” What does that mean?
We can bulletproof anything you’ve got: jackets, dress shirts, things like that. Prices are high—some items cost $2,500. We sell to people like celebrities; anyone who wants to look good and be protected.

Could you bulletproof a beret? Or a cravat?
Yep, absolutely. 

Tell me about the children’s backpacks that have caused all this controversy. How did they
come about?

At trade shows I’d have people come up to me and say, “Hey, this armor is lightweight, I’d love to have a vest or a backpack for my kid so I can take him hunting,” or, “My kid was at Virginia Tech during the [2007] shooting, I don’t want to risk anything else like that.” After the Connecticut shooting everything just exploded, and we now have a four-week backlog on orders for the backpacks.

Aren’t parents also worried about protecting their children’s chests?
Well, any body armor has gaps. I did get an order the other week from a woman for a purple bulletproof vest for her six-year-old. But with the backpacks, if you’re running away from a situation then your back is protected. If you’re trapped, you can get in a corner, lie down, and put the backpack in front of you. Hopefully, it gives you decent odds.

Should we arm children too?
I don’t know. We try not to get into the politics, but I’m personally a believer in the Second Amendment.

Yeah, I think that’s pretty clear.

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