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Updated Saturday, January 5, 2013 at 12:37 PM

Colombia firm makes armored clothes for kids

By CESAR GARCIA
The Associated Press

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — A Colombian firm that makes bulletproof vests is creating armored clothing for children.

Factory owner Miguel Caballero said he never thought about making protective clothes for children until requests came in after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last month.

"After the tragedy in Connecticut, we started getting emails 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, marketing director of the company, also named Miguel Caballero.

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-$600 depending on the complexity of their construction. Each piece weighs 2 to 4 pounds.

"The products were created with the American market in mind, not for the Latino market," said Caballero. "All the designs and colors, everything is thought out with them in mind."

Caballero performed a test on a pink-and-yellow striped bulletproof backpack attached to a pale-blue protective vest, firing a 9-mm pistol and a machine gun to show it could withstand a barrage of bullets.

He said the backpack-vest combo and other protective gear have been ordered by a U.S. distributor, although 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 in the past 50 years.

Outside Colombia, the vests for adults are sold in some 20 countries, including Ecuador, Costa Rica and Mexico. They are also marketed in parts of Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Twenty first-graders and six educators were killed in the Dec. 14 attack at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. The gunman, Adam Lanza, 20, also shot and killed his mother inside their home before driving to the school and shooting his way inside. He committed suicide as police were closing in.

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 to 100 bulletproof backpacks a day after the shooting, up from about 10 to 15 in an average week.

Most children killed in the massacre were shot at close range and likely would not have been saved by armored backpacks.

Related developments

Missing guns: Missing from the gun show in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., next weekend will be some of the most popular guns. Show organizers, after last month's elementary-school massacre in Connecticut, agreed to bar the display and sale of AR-15 military-style semiautomatic weapons and their large-clip magazines. "The majority of people wanted these guns out of the city," said Chris Mathiesen, Saratoga Springs' public-safety commissioner. "They don't want them sold in our city, and I agree. Newtown, Conn., is not that far away."

Giffords visit: Nearly two years after being critically wounded in a mass shooting, former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on Friday met with families of victims from the Connecticut school massacre. She was accompanied by her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, at the private meeting in Newtown.

Seattle Times news services


WILLIAM FERNANDO MARTINEZ / AP
Miguel Caballero tests a bulletproof child's backpack and vest, during a demonstration for journalists.




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