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Monday, August 04, 2008

Makers of tasers aiming to appeal to public

"The idea is to get the weapon in front of soccer moms." ... Steve Tuttle, Taser International

"The natural progression for this is it's going to be in department stores." ... Steve Tuttle, Taser International

"We want to make sure the good guys have this." ... Steve Tuttle, Taser International

August 4, 2008
Rick Armon, Akron Beacon Journal

TravelCenters of America offers everything imaginable that a highway traveler might need. Fuel. Hot showers. Satellite radio systems. Full-service restaurants. Truck repairs. And now . . . Tasers.

The national chain has teamed up with Taser International to sell the stun gun at its 163 truck stops, including sites in North Canton and Lodi.

It's the first time in years that the Taser has been sold in a retail setting other than a sporting goods or firearms store. The move is part of the company's strategy to market the weapon to a more mainstream audience and eliminate the perception that Tasers are reserved for law enforcement authorities only.

TravelCenters of America provides great exposure because travelers are often concerned about personal security, especially if they are on the road alone, Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle said.

About a year ago, the majority of sales were direct to customers, but the company has started selling them in sporting good stores and through firearms dealers. The idea is to get the weapon in front of soccer moms, Tuttle said. "The natural progression for this is it's going to be in department stores," he said.

TravelCenters workers at the North Canton and Lodi sites declined to comment. The
weapons weren't on display last week, but the workers said they were behind counters and available for purchase.

A corporate spokesman didn't return a phone call after asking first to listen to the questions posed by a reporter. The company, based in Westlake, operates under the names TA and Petro in 41 states and Canada.

A spokesman for the Ohio Trucking Association said the trade group had no opinion on the deal.

"I think that people who are on the road feel less secure than people who are in their home area," said Dale Lewison, professor of marketing at the University of Akron and director of the Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing. "From that standpoint, it would be a reasonable fit that a truck stop operation would do that."

How they work

Tasers, which provide incapacitating 50,000-volt electrical shocks, have been controversial because people, including several in the Akron area, have died after being shocked by authorities. Amnesty International has estimated that more than 291 people have died from Tasers in the U.S. since June 2001.

And critics have argued that the weapon should be banned.

Taser has been selling the weapon to the public since its inception, including through retailer Sharper Image at one point in the 1990s. But consumer sales never took off and the company focused on law enforcement instead, Tuttle said.

Now the company is attempting to move back into the mainstream market.

"Fear is a very powerful marketing appeal," Lewison said.

However, he questioned how well the Taser would sell at a department store. Instead, it likely would do well at Kmart or Wal-Mart, he said.

Since the C2 Taser was introduced in July 2007, 31,600 have been sold. Ohio is one of the top five states for Taser sales, Tuttle said. The C2 Taser being sold at TravelCenters, sporting goods stores and on the company Web site for $349.95 differs from the law enforcement version. That main difference involves range, which is limited to 15 feet for the consumer.

The range is shorter because the company wanted the weapon to be "defensive in nature," Tuttle said.

The Taser also won't work when taken out of the box. The customer first must obtain a special code by undergoing a criminal background check and providing personal information to the company, he said. Whenever it is used, it also sprays coded confetti that allows law enforcement to identify the weapon.

"We want to know who you are," Tuttle said. "We want to make sure the good guys have this."

Mixed feelings

Paul Hlynsky, president of the Akron lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, said he has mixed emotions about more people owning Tasers. "We respect the right of citizens to try to defend themselves," he said. "But our officers are very well trained on Tasers. Certainly it's a concern that people will get hurt and will hurt other people."


Excited-Delirium.com said...

I posted a "review" of the civilian taser on my blog, Excited-Delirium.com.

The primary point is that the taser in the hands of a civilian for purposes of self defense is obviously a stupid idea.

1) What if there are two attackers?
2) How far can you run in under 30 seconds?

Another point, if personal tasers become common then the muggers will simply put a layer of tin foil under their clothes to short-out the taser's darts. The weapon costs about $400, the counter measures cost $1.

And when it goes badly (as it will in many cases, even without tin foil shirts), the mugging will probably turn into a murder.

It's such a poorly thought-out concept that one really needs to question the mental capacity of the people that thought it up.

Excited-Delirium.com said...


Riki Bagnell said...

Putting tasers in front of soccer Moms...yes, and those tasers will be in the hands of thugs and muggers. Very soon, everyone will be at risk of being tasered with these tortuous devices, now that they are readily available to the general public. This company has to be reined in. They are going berserk in their quest for cold, hard cash. I cannot imagine that their top customers, police and security forces are very happy with this latest. I read recently that some parents are asking for smaller tasers so that their children can carry them for protection against child predators. Whatever happened to child supervision, walking them to school, keeping a close watch on them? Soon, we will all be "dancing in the streets", to the music of the taser.....

Anonymous said...

how many people in the USA have guns, and how many children die each year because they find mom or dads gun. pretty simple, it will reduce deaths instead of having guns with 6-16 bullets in them

Excited-Delirium.com said...

So the old guns will just 'disappear' into thin air?

More likely they'll be sold on to other families (likely down-market, probably into situations with even worse storage conditions).

Your suggestion that tasers will displace guns anywhere but down the street (or into the basement) is just wishful thinking.

Perhaps Taser should offer a $100 trade-in program, and actually destroy the old guns (as opposed to wholesaling them back out onto the streets as they might be tempted to do).