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JOSE GASPAR: Of bulletproof backpacks, seizing guns and more

My 7- and 5-year-old grandsons went back to school last week, enthusiastic about making new friends at a new school. Landon, the 7-year-old, was sporting a new, dark green backpack with some sort of design on it. His brother preferred one with "Pawcast" characters. Their backpacks were filled with things 7- and 5-year-olds normally need.

Being the sociable kids they are, I have no doubt they will quickly make friends.

Some other students, however, will be sporting backpacks not covered in Dora the Explorer or Batman. They'll be carrying bulletproof backpacks designed to double as shields in case bullets start flying. According to CNN, sales of bulletproof backpacks surged 200 to 300 percent in the wake of the recent massacres in Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton.

I won't get into how effective these backpacks may be in keeping students safe or whether they offer a false sense of security. The larger concern here, of course, is the continuing escalation we see of these nonsensical mass shootings.

Parents who can afford these bulletproof backpacks understandably want to protect their children.

Just how safe can my grandsons be at school these days? Or any other public place for that matter?

The simple fact is that no city, community, place of worship, movie theatre or any other venue in America is immune from the mass shootings so prevalent today, carried out by people emboldened by our political atmosphere.

The El Paso massacre at the Walmart at Cielo Vista Mall is unique in that the shooter specifically targeted one ethnic group. Patrick Wood Cruises -- all of 21 years-old -- admitted he drove hundreds of miles from his Dallas area home to the Texas border city.

According to the El Paso Police Department affidavit, "The defendant stated his targets were Mexicans." One couple, Andre and Jordan Anchondo, were killed while shielding their 2-month-old son during the mayhem. The baby survived. The baby's uncle, Tito Anchondo, told National Public Radio that his brother and wife were Trump supporters. That didn't save them, as the deranged shooter only saw two brown faces and therefore Mexicans to be eliminated.

This incident hit too close to home. Upon hearing the news, my wife immediately started calling family and friends in El Paso, some of whom live near by the shopping mall where the shooting played out. Fortunately, some family members who had planned on going to that shopping mall that day did not go. I called a local friend, also with family in El Paso, and her family was safe. I said a prayer of thanks.

Along with millions of other people across the country, I thought, "What is it going to take to stop these killings?" How is it possible that some people have stockpiles of weapons -- military style assault weapons whose sole purpose is killing people? And they are purchased legally? As usual, politicians only move when it's after the fact. Few have the political guts to present legislation counter to the wishes of the NRA; they fear being targeted for removal from office by that politically well-connected group.

California adopted its Gun Violence Restraining Order statutes after the 2014 mass shooting in Isla Vista in which six people were killed. Under these laws, a law enforcement officer or an immediate family member may petition the court for an restraining order that prohibits a person from controlling, owning, purchasing, possessing, or receiving any firearms or ammunition if that person has exhibited warning signs and are thought to be a risk. Lo and behold, the law is being applied here in Kern County, of all places!

Two law enforcement agencies, the Bakersfield Police Department and the Kern County Sheriff's Office, through two of their respective officers, petitioned the court to impose an emergency gun violence restraining order on David Abbasi for one year. Abbasi is the well known political activist and marijuana advocate.

A search warrant served at his home and on his vehicle found Abbasi to be in possession of an AR-15 assault-style rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun, three semi-automatic handguns plus hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Police believe Abbasi to be "emotionally unstable" and poses a threat to himself and others. They point to recent public behavior in which the activist railed against the Kern County Board of Supervisors in a threatening manner.

He purchased all those guns legally, despite being convicted on a marijuana-related felony in 1997. BPD Sgt. Ted King, who works as an anti-terrorism liaison with law enforcement agencies, testified as an expert witness that 75 percent of all mass shooters purchased their guns legally. Hello? Anyone listening?

I pray that no more innocent victims, most of all children, are targeted and killed because adults failed to protect them. It's going to be a long school year.

Contributing columnist Jose Gaspar is a news anchor/reporter for Telemundo Bakersfield and KGET. Email him at The views expressed here are his own.

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