10 News Investigates: Addressing school gun violence

Safety experts and researchers say it is important to recognize warning signs

GOODE, Va. – Schools across Southwest, Central, and Southside Virginia continue to beef up security to address gun violence in schools. Some parents are taking their child’s safety at school into their own hands by buying bullet-resistant protective gear for their child.

An AR-15 is often the weapon of choice for school shooters in high-profile incidents.

“Sometimes they’ll start with a 9mm, transition to an AR, or vice versa,” said Marko Galbreath, owner and operator of T4Tactics, LLC in Lynchburg.

10 News tested three bullet-resistant backpack inserts rated to protect against rounds from a handgun. All three stopped the bullets.

What if your child is faced with a threat from an AR-15? 10 News put a Level 3+ insert from Atomic Defense to the test. The Level 3+ insert is rated to protect against gunfire from an AR-15 and an AK-47.

“We’re going to shoot this with an AR-15 with a .223 round, which is one of the most common rounds that the bad guys will use,” Galbreath said.

In our test, the Level 3+ insert stopped the AR-15 round.

The Level 3A inserts we tested are soft, weigh 1-2 pounds, and cost anywhere from $99-$160.

The Level 3+ insert is noticeably thicker, weighs about four pounds, and can have a price tag starting at $200.

“I understand that bulletproof backpacks can be expensive, but it’s essentially a form of insurance for your child and that’s what bulletproof companies are offering,” said James Spate, general manager with California-based Atomic Defense. “It’s something we have to think about today.”

Spate said it is important that families do their homework if they buy a bullet-resistant product.

“Nothing is ever truly bulletproof. There’s always a limitation or a fine print to that. You’ll want to double-check in the description and see what specific bullets it will stop,” Spate said.

Safety experts and researchers agree: prevention is the best defense against school shootings.

“When you see school active shooters, you look back at their history and they had some type of feeling of being pushed to the side or not being wanted, not being in the crowd,” Galbreath said. “A lot of it is payback when they go in there and start shooting.”

David Riedman, founder of the K-12 School Shooting Database, said it is important to recognize warning signs in order to prevent school gun violence.

“If we can understand those warning signs, we can develop crisis intervention programs. We can develop violence interruption programs,” Riedman said.

Riedman said it is important to put school gun violence into perspective.

“In a lot of ways, school shootings are still very rare,” Riedman said. “There are two or three indiscriminate attacks every year. There are 300 total shootings at more than 100,000 schools across the country.”

But any parent will tell you, as long as the chance of a school shooting remains, you cannot put a price on your child’s safety.