FARGO, N.D. — With mass shootings a regular reality in America, gun control is a constant debate.
At the same time, a different kind of protection is becoming increasingly popular with consumers.
Bulletproof clothing is now a multi-million dollar industry.
These days, it seems anyone could become a mass shooting victim.
They happen at concerts, high schools, and this week, at a Waffle House in Tennessee.
Talos Ballistics President Ed Burke says fear is driving business.
“Right after Parkland, we had a pretty big spike and had a 70% increase in business,” says Burke. “So, it was a pretty dramatic increase.”
Bulletproof apparel is relatively new.
WDAY tested out bulletproof backpacks five years ago when they first became available.
Burke says now, they make any kind of clothing imaginable.
“We’ve even gone as far as to bulletproof a baby carriage,” says Burke.
He says the best sellers these days just look like regular clothing.
“I thought it would be a big, hefty vest, but that just looks like a normal, nice vest that people would wear,” says MSUM student Cora Sather.
Some, like Sather, were shocked at the vest.
Others see it as a grim reminder of reality.
“It’s not surprising that they’re making it,” says Moorhead resident Jess Jacobson. “It’s surprising that we need it.”
Jacobson said she needed more answers before investing in something bulletproof.
“If I’m going to spend the money on something, is it really going to do its job?”
Our WDAY crew visited Bill’s Gun Range to answer that question, hanging up the vest and loading a Glock 17 9mm pistol.
Sure enough, the material completely stopped the bullet from penetrating.
An undershirt the company makes had the same result, but evidence of the bullet’s impact was still there.
After more than 20 rounds in each shirt, the only ones that got through missed the plates covering our wooden dummy’s midsection.
The other bullets ended up flattened by the impact.
So, the shirts did their job, but at more than $700 for the vest alone, is it a realistic option for everyday people?
“As a college student, I don’t know how affordable that is for me or my peers,” says Sather. “But seeing the way things are going, it would be something I would probably look into.”
Burke says more and more people are looking into it every day.
“We’re necessary as of today. With the lack of change in gun control, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”
The clothing is meant to stop handguns.
Burke says they’re not designed to stop rifle fire, like an AR-15.
He says right now, the cheapest option the company offers is a bulletproof plate to put in a backpack or briefcase for $100.