Maker defends Taser, stun-gun in the sights of scandal
AFP | December 12 2004
The maker of an electrical "stun gun," in the midst of another Iraq prisoner scandal, said the Taser is nonetheless safe.
"It is the safest use-of-force option available, period," said Tom Smith, president and co-founder of Taser International.
The stun-guns can zap a person at 6.5 meters (20 feet) with 50,000 volts, which lower "officers' injuries by 80 percent and suspects' injuries by 60 percent," he said.
Taser was founded by Rick and Tom Smith, two of whose university buddies were killed in a parking lot in Scottsdale, Arizona, where the company headquarters and production facility is located. Its slogan: "Saving Lives Everyday."
However, Tasers have gotten some different press lately.
In Miami, police used them on a 12-year-old girl and a boy of six.
And in Iraq, four members of an elite special operations task force were punished for unauthorized use of Tasers on prisoners.
Defense Intelligence Agency interrogators reported seeing prisoners with burns and bruises being brought to a temporary detention center by members of Task Force 26, a top-secret special operations unit.
The besieged Taser International answered criticism directly. Smith said his guns are incapable of killing, according to independent studies.
Wait a minute, said a major human rights group. More than 70 persons have died not long after being zapped by a Taser.
"What Amnesty International is calling for is systematic independent tests that will give us the answer once and for all as to whether or not there is a relationship between the use of Tasers, particularly against people with heart disease, or people who are using certain drugs, or pregnant women, and the increased possibility of people of these categories suffering lethal deadly consequences," said William Schulz, director of Amnesty International USA.
"The shock from the Taser can be applied over and over again, not just in the initial five-second blast.
"Therefore there can be a possibility that Tasers can be used to inflict torture quite easily," he said.
Smith said of Amnesty: "They just are not in touch with what's going on in the world of law enforcement."
US police have been using Tasers for six years. In that time, they have become part of the crime-fighting hardware in more than 5,000 US police departments.
The bottom line for the Smith brothers is a stunning 175 percent increase in sales so far this year.
Taser shares have passed 27 dollars, quadrupling their value since January
Exports go to 40 countries and are strong to Europe.
London, where police are famous for going unarmed, has authorized use of the Taser. France is to render its evaluation of tests by the end of the month, Smith said.
"There are numerous, numerous, countries that have adopted and that are testing and using this technology," Smith said, naming Finland, Sweden, Germany, Spain, Greece, Romania.
And Americans, rugged individualists who like to own weapons, have taken to the Taser as well, purchasing 100,000 of them over the past 10 years.