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Store offers bulletproof book bag

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Jay Allen, right, talks to Ken Morgan while demonstrating a universal bulletproof tear down bag on Monday at Allen Outfitters in Tarboro.

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BY COREY DAVIS
Rocky Mount Telegram

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

TARBORO — Mass shootings at schools, concerts and other public venues have become a major concern in recent years. But a push for lawmakers to strengthen gun laws continues to spark controversy and discussion throughout the country.

While the debate rages, some people are looking for creative ways to promote safety.

Among those taking a proactive approach  are Jay Allen and his wife, Jessica, owners of Allen Outfitters, along with their partner Robert Cooper. They have invented a book bag that can unfold into a shield to protect people in the event of a mass shooting.

Allen said for now, the product is being called the universal bulletproof tear down bag, after several different names for it had been considered. The product’s Kevlar IIIA level hard material provides protection from bullets fired by weapons like machine guns, Uzi’s, 9-mm and 44-magnum guns, he said.

“If someone starts shooting in a crowd, you can put it in front of you, you can run with it over you and you can get behind it in the corner,” Allen said. “We put in a ceramic plate that weighs an extra seven or eight pounds that will also stop high-powered rifles or something that will take down a bear. A knife also won’t go through this.”

Allen said the reason he dubbed it as the universal bulletproof teardown bag and not just a book bag is because of the other uses of the product.

“You can convert this or tear down this into a laptop bag, a diaper or baby bag, concert bag, use it for a picnic or you can sit on it and use it as a mat,” Allen said.

Allen said Allen Outfitters recently posted a homemade video about the product, and thousands of people looked at it in a matter of hours on Facebook. He said that on Saturday, a videographer is coming down and the bag’s creators  plan to take it to a shooting range.

“We’re going to do videos of the (bag) getting shot up,” Allen said. “We’re going to start off at 10 yards and then keep backing up. We want to give it a stress test for people to see how it holds up against bullets.”

Jessica Allen said the business sold at least 10 of the bags through special orders within four or five hours of putting them on the market. 

The local manufacturer for the product is JHRG in Spring Hope, which built the prototype and is known in the industry for making tactical body armor that’s proven and combat-tested.

“They’ve done stuff before with the Secret Service, designed bullet-proof vests for the FBI and done other kind of security stuff for other countries,” Jessica Allen said. “It’s really their forte, and it’s a big reason why we choose to go with them — because of their high experience in this area.”

Jessica Allen said the idea for the product was sparked by the school shootings. Allen said she has a 16-year-old daughter who goes to a large high school in Wilmington, which has not experienced any shootings but has experienced several lockdowns.

“We just had general conversation about safety and what she can do to protect herself and her classmates,” Allen said. “Some schools don’t allow children to use backpacks at all. I wouldn’t have a problem supplying this directly to schools. It wouldn’t be a bad idea if schools wanted to keep it in some stationary place in the classroom where teachers would have access to it quickly.”

Jay Allen opened Allen Outfitters earlier this year selling outdoor equipment for fishing, camping and hunting, while selling guns like the controversial AR-15 rifle.

According to a recent report, at least 173 people have been killed in mass shootings in the United States involving AR-15s since 2007, and many people have called for a ban on the sale of AR-15 rifles.

“I know this shows us on both sides of gun control,” Allen said. “You aren’t going to take away AR-15s, or any gun. We see this product as an alternative solution, and this is better than a bulletproof vest. The thing about a bulletproof vest is it protects your vitals, while this product protects the whole body.”

Jessica Allen said the product is being sold for $450, which she knows is a lot of money to pay for a bag. Cooper, who owns a tax service on Cokey Road in Rocky Mount, said there is no price tag too high to keep someone from being killed.

“If it does what it’s supposed to do, it’s a great opportunity to save lives,” Cooper said. “I think it’s a good thing for adults and definitely for children. The children need to feel safe because a lot of them are concerned nowadays in schools with all these shootings and stuff. When they aren’t comfortable, they can’t concentrate because they’re worrying about their safety. 

“This is one of the items that will be great at protecting them.”

For more information about the product, call Allen Outfitters at 641-5800 or visit www.allenoutfitters-nc.com.

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