In a few weeks, the summer break in the United States will end and parents will send their children back to school.
But, while they buy the usual supplies, like pens, notebooks and pastels, they are likely to notice a product that, in any other part of the world, seems alarming: bulletproof backpacks.
Several images have become viral on social media this week showing a range of mind-boggling bags in a range of colors for sale in US supermarkets.
"I saw today in Office Maxx and my heart literally broke into pieces," one stunned parent wrote along with a photo of the bags, which cost about $ 120 US $ and have a gloomy marketing motto : "Protection is in session".
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The post has now been shared hundreds of thousands of times, with parents around the world expressing shock and wondering if the product was a joke.
Well, not only is the product real but it is selling like hot cakes.
Guard Dog Security's ProShield Scout backpacks are supplied by numerous retailers in the United States for up to $ 300 a day, but many stores are struggling to keep up with demand.
Yasir Sheikh, president and founder of Skyline USA, the company that produces the Guard Dog bags, he told MSNBC "We have sold out this year a few times" and sales have increased after the weekend that saw two mass shootings in a 24-hour period.
Roman Zrazhevskiy of ReadyToGoSurvival.com told al Houston Chronicle that orders for bulletproof backpacks over the weekend were more than unusually high.
"Our base line is 100 units a month," Zrazhevskiy told the newspaper. "We have sold 300 units in the last few days."
Another company, Bullet Blocker, which has been selling bulletproof backpacks for over a decade, says its sales have skyrocketed by over 200% in recent years.
According to the product description on the Guard Dog website, the ProShield Scout backpack is "designed for everyday student transport".
"The Guard Dog ProShield Scout looks like a normal backpack but has LEVEL IIIA protection," it says. "With a laptop case and organizational pockets, the Scout is simply more than an unarmed backpack."
Other manufacturers like ArmorMe go even further by asking parents to practice mass shooting scenarios at home with their children, using a bullet-proof bag as a shield.
"We never know when or where violent attacks can occur" his website law. "Designed for everyday use, our elegant and eco-friendly bags hide a solid wall of bullet-resistant material to provide instant protection from gun attacks".
However, supporters of gun control say that there is no evidence that armored backpacks, no matter how carefully tested, would keep children safe during a shootout.
"We ask the children to oppose the armed men because the politicians are too afraid to oppose the arms lobby," said Shannon Watts, founder of a basic weapons control organization New York Times. "There is no parent in this country who is not terrified. These companies are capitalizing on this."
However, Gabi Siboni – who manages ArmorMe – said that the criticisms were unfair.
"Whatever you do, you're capitalizing on something," he said Times. "We're just responding to a need."
The Guard Dog website also states that the company will offer a portion of each bulletproof backpack sale to a national non-profit organization dedicated to protecting students and teachers at school.