A company in Fort Pierce, Fl., – not far from Parkland, site of the 2018 school shooting that killed 17 – is stirring controversy with its plan to protect children from school shootings by hiding them in bullet-resistant steel enclosures. To many, the idea of directing children into stark metal boxes serves as an alarming symbol of a nation that fails to address the causes of its gun violence crisis, The Guardian reports. With Congress stymied on gun control, and mass shootings only growing deadlier and more common, do the pods represent a disturbing – but inevitable – safety measure? John Corrado of National Safety Shelter, says the company sees its shelters as a response to an intractable problem. “Obviously, the fewer the guns, the better. Because you can’t have shootings without guns,” Corrado says. “However, we’ve recognized reality. With the type of government that we have and the difficulty in getting laws changed … guns are here to stay. So you have to do something to protect yourself from them.” The idea, he says, is that the pods would be just one part of a comprehensive solution.
Children, the company says, can enter the shelters in the event of an attack “within a minute or less”. The pods, intended to accommodate a classroom’s worth of people, are built from “military-grade steel specially heat-treated to resist not only all handguns and shotguns, but even semi-automatic weapons like AK-47 and AR-15 rifles." The idea is that each classroom would have its own shelter, which locks from the inside with three bolts and a locking pin. The company began as a mobility lift company, building equipment to assist disabled people, Corrado says. One of its suppliers was a company that built above-ground tornado shelters in Missouri. His company began marketing the pods as protection against shooters and tornadoes. Its first client was the Quitman school district in Arkansas, which spent $1 million to install 53 pods in classrooms, the cafeteria and the gym. Since then, the company has worked with several other schools and some daycares, Corrado says. So far, the pods have not been used in any real-world shootings, he says, though Quitman used them during a tornado scare. Meanwhile, a handful of other midwestern tornado-shelter makers have “started to rebrand them as safety shelters.”