As the town of Newtown tries to continue on with their lives and the children of Sandy Hook elementary resume classes in a different school, a Colombian businessman and maker of bulletproof clothing has released a new collection of bulletproof vest and backpacks for children.
“We started the collection 15 days ago,” says Miguel Caballero, CEO of Miguel Caballero Ltd., which has created bulletproof products for 20 years and is used by the presidents of Ecuador, Panama and Paraguay, among others. “Today we had the first order of 24 vests from the U.S.”
A move towards creating a product line specifically for the American market is new for Caballero’s company, which sells mostly to Qatar, Dubai, South Africa and Latin America. “This is the first time we’re thinking with the American market in mind,” Caballero says.
But some are afraid Caballero’s product line misses the mark in a big way.
“It seems like they’re exploiting a delicate subject,” says Monica Shahbaznia Alvarez, Ph.D., a family and child pediatric psychologist in California. “Obviously we have an international free market and they see an opportunity to jump on it.”
Dr. Alvarez says it reaches 100 degrees in California and children wouldn’t be comfortable wearing bulletproof vests. She says the same holds true if they were running around on a playground in Arizona or wearing a big coat in the Northeast.
Dr. Alvarez also says the act of wearing bulletproof vests would be psychologically damaging for children.
“The immediate thing is I’m putting this on because I’m not safe,” she says. “The collateral damage is an increase in anxiety and nervousness for children. Imagine waiting to take a history test and being nervous and then add in the fact that you’re wearing a bulletproof vest because someone might come in and shoot you.”
But Caballero says while he once resisted vests for children, he now sees that they are necessary.
“What happened with this collection is we received orders in June and July of last year,” Caballero says. “People wanted these items for their children but I thought, kids don’t need this protection. After Connecticut, I see that we need a solution for kids.”
Now the new MC Kids line is prominently displayed on the MiguelCaballero.com site. When you click into it a girl and a boy are shown wearing bulletproof vests that appear to be normal clothing. The entire product line consists of a kid’s t-shirt, a puffer vest for kids, a safety vest and the V-Bag, which is a combination vest and bookbag.
Caballero, who has so much confidence in his vests that he shoots his employees from close range to test the designs, says that developing vests for children is much different than doing it for adults. “I have spoken to the doctor of my kids about trauma impact,” he says. “The body of kids is totally different and that’s why we’re developing a solution for children age eight to 16.”
Dr. Alvarez doesn’t believe children should have to deal with such measures.
“It’s a constant reminder that ‘I lost my childhood and might get shot at any moment,’” she says, invoking recent talk by legislators to put guns in the hands of qualified teachers.
“A child might think, ‘What if one of my crazy class clown classmates gets a hold of my teacher’s gun? Well the good thing is we’re all wearing our bullet proof vests.’”