Factory owner Miguel Caballero said he never thought about making protective clothes for children until requests came in after the deadly Dec. 14 attack at Sandy Hook Elementary.
“After the tragedy in Connecticut, we started getting e-mails from customers asking for protected (clothing) because they were afraid to take their kids to school,” Caballero said.
“We have received messages from all over the United States” seeking the protective gear, added Giovanni Cordero, the company’s marketing director.
Products include child-size armored vests, protective undershirts and backpacks with ballistic protection that can be used as shields.
The products are designed for children ages 8-16 years old and cost $150 to $600, depending on the complexity of their construction. Each piece weighs 2-4 pounds.
“The products were created with the American market in mind, not for the Latino market,” Caballero said. “All the designs and colors, everything is thought out with them in mind.”
Caballero performed a test on a pink-and-yellow-striped backpack attached to a pale-blue protective vest, firing a 9 mm pistol and a machine gun to show it could withstand a barrage.
He said the backpack-vest combo and other protective gear already have been ordered by a U.S. distributor, but he would not identify it.
About 250 people work at Caballero’s factory, which has been making armored vests for adults for more than 20 years. Colombia suffers from an internal conflict that has killed thousands of people over the past half-century.
Outside Colombia, the vests for adults are sold in about 20 countries, including Mexico. They are also marketed in parts of Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
Twenty first-graders and six educators were killed in the attack at Sandy Hook in Newtown, Conn.
After the Newtown shooting, at least three American companies that were already making backpacks designed to shield children reported a spike in sales.
Massachusetts-based Bullet Blocker reported it was selling 50-100 bulletproof backpacks a day after the shooting, up from about 10-15 in an average week. The children’s backpacks, which are designed to be used as shields, cost more than $200 each.
Most of the children killed at Sandy Hook were shot at close range and likely would not have been saved by armored backpacks.