PHOTO: Body armor plates such as these are officially certified by the National Institute of Justice and will defeat most rifle rounds. In the wake of the Parkland, Florida shooting, a company has been marketing "Bulletproof backpacks" as NIJ Level IIIa certified, which the National Institute of Justice has never tested. Level IIIa, even if certified, is not listed to stop the round fired by the AR15. (File Photo)
By Tyler Pruett, Managing Editor
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Wednesday, the Justice Department released a statement regarding claims made by the main stream media regarding so-called bulletproof backpacks.
The backpacks were featured on several mainstream media news outlets, and are marketed with a "NIJ" Level IIIa rating. The NIJ is an acronym for National Institute of Justice, which carries out testing on body armor for law enforcement.
"[Our bulletproof backpacks] sold out within three days of the shooting," Yasir Sheikh, the president of Guard Dog Security, a personal defense product company, told ABC News about its sales following the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. "The entire line."
According to the Justice Department, the NIJ has not tested the "bulletproof backpacks," which feature an insert marketed to stop bullets.
According to a statement by Justice Department spokesman Devin O'Malley: "The National Institute of Justice—the research, development, and evaluation agency of the Department of Justice—has never tested nor certified ballistic items, such as backpacks, blankets, or briefcases, other than body armor for law enforcement. Marketing that claims NIJ testing or certification for such products is false."
It's also important to note that Level IIIa body armor, even if NIJ certified, only stops common handgun rounds. The calibers listed that IIIa will defeat are .22 (long rifle and short), 9mm Luger, .380 ACP, .38 Special, .45 ACP, and .44 Magnum. Level III (different than Level IIIa) and above is required to stop 5.56mm (or .223) which is the round commonly fired from the AR15, which was used in the Parkland, Florida shooting earlier this month.
The only ballistic-resistant product that NIJ certifies is law enforcement body armor that meet the requirements of NIJ’s Compliance Testing Program (CTP), which are then listed on NIJ’s Compliant Products List.
Testing body armor involves a technically rigorous test campaign that must be carried out by one of four laboratories that are accredited by the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program and approved by NIJ to participate in the CTP.
The protocols and procedures are described in the current NIJ performance standard NIJ Standard 0101.06, Ballistic Resistance of Body Armor. In addition, NIJ offers many informational resources on law enforcement body armor at policearmor.org.