Friday, February 8, 2013

Guns and textbooks

Last month was the science fair where we live. My son didn’t enter his project, but was required to submit a science fair-worthy project to his 7th-grade science teacher.

His project tested how many textbooks it would take to stop a bullet. Specifically, he tested how far a .22, a 9mm, and a 7.62x39 would penetrate a stack of 5 hardcover textbooks each about 1 ½ inches thick. A Ruger Competition Target was used for the .22, a GLOCK  34 was used for the 9mm, and for the 7.62x39, a Russian SKS was used.

An older friend who is experienced with guns and owns the guns used in the project did the actual shooting.  My son bound together three stacks of five textbooks with duct tape. He set these on a saw horse frame and the gunman shot each stack with each gun for a total of nine rounds fired.

My son then measured how far each bullet penetrated. He’d hypothesized that three textbooks should provide enough protection from the gunshots at a distance of twelve feet. It turns out he was both right and wrong in his hypothesis.

Twice the .22 penetrated all the way through one textbook and on the final round, it penetrated through half of the first textbook in the stack (this textbook was a little thicker than the others).

The 9mm consistently penetrated 2 complete textbooks, causing surface damage to the third in each stack, but getting stuck in the back cover of the second.

The 7.62x39 penetrated 4 textbooks in the first two stacks and 3.5 textbooks in the last stack (where the first textbook was a little thicker).

So, three textbooks is not bad protection, but four is much better. In my son’s school, they practice lockdown at least once a semester. After the Sandy Hook massacre, the school implemented new policies for lockdown which they practiced the first week back at school after the holiday break.

My son pointed out that during lockdown, students are instructed to leave their backpacks and huddle together in the corner of the room furthest away from any windows and the classroom door.  During lockdown, students don’t pull down desks to hide behind and they don’t take cover behind bookcases or other classroom furniture or equipment.

This experiment showed us that, at the very least, students should be allowed to use their backpacks full of textbooks as protection during lockdown. Some gun retailers are trying to sell parents on armored backpacks. These cost on average about $300.00 per pack and add additional weight to the already heavy packs kids have to carry around all day long.

These backpacks seem too heavy to be practical for young children or even teenagers who are only supposed to be carrying 10% of their body weight to avoid back strain. I also don’t like the idea of gun retailers who, in part, created the problem of gun violence, would financially benefit from attempts to mitigate the harm caused by gun violence.

In addition to the protection the backpacks could provide, older kids would ostensibly have access to their cell phones if they had their backpacks with them. This would allow them to text or phone parents and siblings during a gun violence event. Having a phone may not save them, but it might allow them to say goodbye in much the same way passengers on flight 93 which crashed in a field in Pennsylvania when passengers fought back against terrorists trying to use the plane to attack the White House.

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